Archive for the ‘Richard Yates’ Category

Winter and Revolutionary Road

January 14, 2009

I know there’s a lot of snow-haters out there, but I gotta say it, I love the snow and I love winter.  There’s only a few days of good snowy winter weather in the city, and if I don’t go outside to appreciate it, I feel like winter has passed me by.  I love the snow, love the cold winds, love glistening ice on the trees (but not the ice on the sidewalks), love the look of  bare tree branches, love dressing in layers with hats and scarves and warm jackets, love trampling through snow in my winter boots, I love when the sun is warm but the wind is cold.   I especially love coming inside and sitting down to homemade lentil soup after sending the day out in the snow.  Which is exactly what I did on Saturday . 

Saturday Manny and I wandered through Prospect Park during the snowstorm.  (Sadly, Manny doesn’t quite share my enthusiam for winter, but he came out with me anyway).  We really liked this enormous tree:

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Just as it starting snowing really badly, we walked out of the park right in front of the B16 bus stop just as the bus was approaching.  Perfection!  There was hardly any traffic on roads due to the snow so we had a nice scenic ride home.  Our bus driver was particularly chatty and told us about his tricks for driving in the snow. 

Sunday I went walking through Shore Road Park.  I cannot even begin to describe how happy this park makes me, a little slice of wilderness close to home, wedged between the Belt Parkway and Shore Road.  It has walking paths through the trees, wide open fields for soccer and baseball, and a bike/running path along the water.  During my walk yesterday, I saw a red tailed hawk sitting in a tree branch close to the path, near the tennis courts and ball fields that are apparently closed for some sort of reconstruction.  Its crazy to think if I didn’t happen to look up while I walked past it, I would not see it.  Because those birds are huge.  The bird was all fluffed up to fight the cold winds.  It looked rather relaxed, not moving except for turning it head from side to side, checking things out.  I watched it for about 10 minutes.  It was still there in the same branch on my walk back home about 25 minutes later.  Of course I didn’t have my camera with me.

I have been waiting on some books for the library so in the meantime I’ve been keeping myself busy with magazines discarded on the subway, free newspapers, The Village Voice, The Onion, and the occasional Us Weekly.  Oh, and also, the movie tie in edition of Revolutionary Road.  Being a being a kid from the burbs I am intrigued by books about how the suburbs suck… plus how bad could the plot be if Kate and Leo are in the movie adaptation?  

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Turns out, Revolutionary Road, first published in 1961 was one of the first books about how the suburbs suck. We meet Frank and April Wheeler who are stuck in a failing marriage.  Frank works at a dead end corporate job in the city and April is stuck being a housewife.  They like to think they are more superior than their suburban neighbors.  They are cultured, they help start a theater group in their suburb, they have big plans to move to Europe.  But throughout the book they are forced to come to terms with the fact that they are like everyone else and their lives are nothing but ordinary.

Frank and April Wheeler are not the most likable characters, but we can all relate to their circumstances in some way.  In the same way people slow down to watch car wrecks, I kept reading the book to find out what happens to them.  You know they are in for a volatile ending, but you keep reading, partially to find out their mistakes so you make sure you don’t make them in your own life.

The book is told mostly from Frank’s point of view, but it is April Wheeler is the most intriguing character.  At first, she seems like a shallow, neurotic housewife, only because we don’t know much about her.  Only in the end does her character fully develop.  In an interview, author Richard Yates spoke about how April’s character embodies the rebellion against 1950’s America:

I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the 1950s. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs – a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price, as exemplified politically in the Eisenhower administration and the Joe McCarthy witchhunts. Anyway, a great many Americans were deeply disturbed by all that – felt it to be an outright betrayal of our best and bravest revolutionary spirit – and that was the spirit I tried to embody in the character of April Wheeler.  I meant the title to suggest that the revolutionary road of 1776 had come to something very much like a dead end in the Fiftes.

I hope I get my library books come through soon.  I’ll definitely need some reading material by this weekend.  My dad now lives in Arlington, Virginia so my entire family is driving down there this weekend to crash at his place and maybe score some tickets to Obama’s inauguration.  This is should interesting.

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