on 21 July 2009
In these eleven stories, Yates (a great writer who truly deserves being rediscovered as he is now) writes about loneliness, about yearning, about details we endlessly recognise in our own lives.
The stories are short, heart felt, sometimes sad and sometimes tender. Yates evokes brilliantly the doubts and ambitions that burn us up and use us up, his characters are all flawed, and yet fascinating. Some people may find some of the stories a little depressing, I can honestly say I just found them thought provoking, real, and refreshing.
A great writer who takes eleven opportunities to craft eleven very different tales.
When you read a lot of books, whether they be good or bad, when something extremely well written comes along it stands out immediately. Whether it be a certain quality of writing, or the ability to connect emotionally, or cutting to the heart of the matter as simply as possible or an amalgamation of these, it is very special when they come along. `Eleven Kinds of Loneliness' is one of these books and by the time I had read the first short story on offer, I was held enthralled until I had reached the end. This has eleven short stories that are mainly based in and around New York and have a slight melancholy feel to them, the delicious kind that makes you feel nostalgic without the depression that can come after. The theme of loneliness, in all it's forms, runs through this book and many stories are immensely poignant. Yates has the ability to draw you in and to help you connect with the characters in the stories until you feel their sadness', triumphs and notice their positive traits and flaws within yourself. This is perfect to dip into when you need that hit of top class literature, but is just as good to sit and read from cover to cover in one sitting. It is American literature at it's best and highly recommended reading.
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on 3 April 2009
I had never heard of Richard Yates, but I added this because Amazon linked it to purchases I'd made of people like Bukowski and Raymond Carver. I'm a massive fan of their short stories, and this is right up there with them. So if you like them, read this. Eleven stories, all set in about the 50s, and all linked by New York (in that at least one of the characters is from there). It reads beautifully, he has a marvellous turn of phrase, and each story lasts just long enough, and lingers in the memory long after. Beautifully realised characters, it's slightly depressing, but not totally so (there are good times) and it's never maudlin. I will be buying more by Richard Yates.
on 7 November 2014
I used to tell anyone who'd listen that Anton Chekhov was the best short story writer who ever lived, with perhaps James Joyce (Dubliners) not far behind. But after reading the excellent Revolutionary Road a friend told me that Yates's short stories were even better than that novel, though I had my doubts. But, oh me, oh my, these are every bit as good as Chekhov, exquisitely crafted and observed takes on life, never intruded on by a censorious author, and subtly allusive rather than declamatory. In The Best of Everything, for example, you want to shake a character by the shoulders and tell her "Don't do it, woman; whatever else you do, don't do it." But she will, I guess, because many of us do, with predictably dire consequences and thus the aptness and power of the tale. Vintage are right to call these Classics because that's exactly what they are - pure gold with an ace cover to boot.
on 18 May 2009
I recently discovered Yates - and I am so glad I did. This collection of short stories is thought-provoking, abiding, and beautifully written. The characters are vivid, and he captures the contradictions in the essence of 1950s America superbly. It is true that the stories are a little gloomy, but that doesn't mean there isn't real humour there too (redolent of Morrisey). I am glad I discovered Yates - a truly under-appreciated writer.
on 12 September 2014
I first read this volume shortly after it was published. I would have been around eleven years old at the time. It was the first contemporary American writing I had read, and a few of the stories were simply beyond me. But the ones I did understand (the stories with an army setting, or the stories about teachers at disadvantaged schools) stayed with me for the next fifty years.
I always meant to revisit the volume - especially after seeing the film Revolutionary Road (based on a Yates novel) - but I couldn't quite be bothered to order it from a bookseller, or fill in an inter-library loan request.
Getting the title on Kindle was so easy, and once I started re-reading the stories I could see why they made such an impression at the time.
Yates' observation of 1950's New York is so precise and meticulous that the world of these stories seems as strange and distant to me now as Chinua Achebe colonial Africa, or Milan Kundera's 1970's Prague.
But they are great stories, and I am so happy my Kindle has put them back in my way again.
on 14 March 2006
The first of many things to love about this book is the bold-as-you-like title. Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. Eleven Kinds of Loneliness? Man goes into publisher's office:
Man: I've got this book of stories I want you to publish.
Publisher: Oh yeah? Let me see that.
Man: Try this one.
Publisher: [reading] Well, this is gloomy as hell, buddy, but there's something there. Maybe we can get them in with a cheery title, they won't know what hit 'em.
Man: I have a title.
Publisher: How many stories have you got for the book?
Publisher: And what's your title?
Man: ...Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.
Publisher: Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, buddy.
And yet - it worked. Eleven Kinds of Loneliness was published, and acclaimed, shortly after Revolutionary Road. Didn't sell, of course, but what do you expect? It is gloomy as hell - but there's most certainly something there. More than something: misery, humiliation, pity, desperation, weakness, ignorance, bullying - oh and loneliness. But despite all this, the stories are bright-eyed and pink-tongued. They shine or bristle with life, even if it's not the sort of life you would conceivably care to share in. This is the sort of thing you get, from the second story, The Best of Everything, about a couple who are about to get married without either really wanting to:
"She'd have time for a long talk with her mother that night, and the next morning, "bright and early" (her eyes stung at the thought of her mother's plain, happy face), they would start getting dressed for the wedding. Then the church and the ceremony, and then the reception (Would her father get drunk? Would Muriel Ketchel sulk about not being a bridesmaid?), and finally the train to Atlantic City, and the hotel. But from the hotel on she couldn't plan any more. A door would lock behind her and there would be a wild, fantastic silence, and nobody in all the world but Ralph to lead the way."
The pleasure in Yates's stories is not some sort of misanthopric delight in seeing the downtrodden trodden yet further down. His characters are unfortunate yet resilient (admittedly because sometimes they're unaware how unfortunate they are); they bear their fate with stoicism, and there are no culpably dramatic Perfect-Day-for-Bananafish endings. Even, in a rare moment of generosity, there is compassionate relief for a character at the end of his story (A Glutton for Punishment), albeit only in the sense that he gets to share his burden with his wife, rather than concealing it as he had intended to.
Whatever the pleasure, it's undeniable and unopposable, because the stories kept me reopening them - just one more - like some sort of anti-candy, as unsweet as can be but nonetheless addictive.
on 9 December 2012
Maybe like a few readers, I first got wind of Yates thru the Hollywood film version of Revolutionary Road.
This is the perfect intro to this great writer. His writing is a brutal lens on ordinary Americans - the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
His prose has a quality that cuts through to the heart of the matter and I found the stories had to be read in one sitting. It's a wonder why Yates isn't lauded as an American great, he deserves to be.
Give this book a chance and enter his world where the suffocation of existence has never been so well told..
on 8 November 2012
A powerful and moving collection of short stories each of which give a sharp and telling glimpse of maleness, from the very first story of a misfit new-kid-in-the-class and teacher-love and betrayal, through various tales of husbands, wives, and regular buddies trudging through the muddier waters of manhood. I love the writing, evocative and yet lean; my kind of writer. On the strength of this collection I bought his Revolutionary Road (really enjoying that, too).Revolutionary Road
on 14 February 2014
Eleven Kinds of Loneliness is a collection of 11 short stories, which are unrelated but all take place in the same general time period and location (post-WW2 New York). The stories span a range of subject matters including among others marriages, friendships, children at school and illness. I feel that the title of the book is a bit misleading in that each story is not about "loneliness" per se; perhaps more accurately the common theme is people who feel alienated or unhappy, against the backdrop of post-WW2 America which brought the promise of a better life. Yates is an excellent writer and there are a number of good moments in these stories. However, in my view several of the stories are just not very good, and they have a dated feel, particularly the humour in certain of them. As a result, I found reading the book a bit laborious. In sum, I feel that Eleven Kinds of Loneliness falls short of the quality and impact of the Yates novels I have read, but it is nonetheless a good collection of short stories that is worth reading.