cover of book

Dismembering the American Dream: The Life and Fiction of Richard Yates
by Kate Charlton-Jones
foreword by DeWitt Henry
afterword by Monica Yates Shapiro
University of Alabama Press, 2014
Paper: 978-0-8173-5859-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-8748-8 | Cloth: 978-0-8173-1825-3
Library of Congress Classification PS3575.A83Z65 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.54

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature

Since his death in Alabama in 1992, the work of American writer Richard Yates has enjoyed a renaissance, culminating in director Sam Mendes’s adaption of the novel Revolutionary Road (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet). Dismembering the American Dream is the first book-length critical study of Yates’s fiction.
Kate Charlton-Jones argues that to read Yates’s tales of disordered lives is to uncover not misery, though the lives he describes are sad ones, but a profound, enriching, and humorous understanding of human weakness and vulnerability. Yates’s narratives absorb his readers so entirely, mirroring their own emotional highs and lows with such skill, that reading becomes recognition. Yates demonstrates his ability to tease powerful human drama out of the most ordinary, quotidian moments. At the same time, Yates’s fiction displays an object lesson in the art of fine prose writing, so it is no surprise that many early fans of Yates were also established writers.
Charlton-Jones explores how Yates extends the realist form and investigates three main recurring themes of his fiction: observations about performative behavior, which are at the heart of all his fictions; his conception of the writer’s role in society; and how he envisages the development of social and sexual relationships. Furthermore, Charlton-Jones illustrates how Yates incorporates some of the concerns and methods of postmodernist writers but how, nevertheless, he resists their ontological challenges.
Drawing on the author’s personal papers and with a foreword by DeWitt Henry and an afterword by Richard Yates’s daughter Monica, Dismembering the American Dream provides an extended critical examination of the often neglected but important work of this gifted and accomplished author. 

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