Title: Disturbing the Peace
Author: Richard Yates
Publication Year: 1984
Publisher: Delta/Random House
Edition: trade softcover
Source: My Stacks
Date Completed: 5/4/2011
Setting: New York
I recently purchased several books by Richard Yates, after reading Revolutionary Road and the Easter Parade and loving them. Next up was Disturbing the Peace, and although it was good, it wasn't as good as the first two books I read by Yates. I recently highlighted the opening paragraphs of this book, which seemed to have a sense of foreboding of bad things to come......
"Everything began to go wrong for Janice Wilder in the late summer of 1960. And the worst part, she always said afterwards, the awful part, was that it seemed to happen without warning.
She was thirty-four and the mother of a ten-year-old son. The fading of her youth didn't bother her--it hadn't been a very carefree or adventurous youth anyway--and if her marriage was more an arrangement than romance, that was all right too. Nobody's life was perfect. She enjoyed the orderly rotation of her days; she enjoyed books, of which she owned a great many; and she enjoyed her high, bright apartment with its view of midtown Manhattan towers. It was neither a rich nor an elegant apartment, but it was comfortable--and 'comfortable' was one of Janice Wilder's favorite words. She was fond of the word 'civilized', too, and of 'reasonable' and 'adjustment' and 'relationship'. Hardly, anything upset or frightened her: the only things that did--sometimes to the point of making her blood run cold--were the things she didn't understand."
In this story the protagonist, John Wilder, is an advertising salesman with a wife and young son. He is a very unstable man, who sometimes drinks to excess, and a womanizer to boot. From the very early beginnings of this story, he appears to be suffering some sort of a nervous breakdown. A friend drives him to Bellevue Psych hospital where he spends one week in an involuntary lockup, and his reflections demonstrate he is somewhat delusional at times as well.
"I've been a turd under everybody's feet all my life and I've just now figured out there's greatness in me."
When he is released from the hospital he, his unhappy wife Janice and their young, emotionless son Tommy take a trip to the country and try to pretend to be a family. It's evident that no weekend getaway can fix this family's problems. In fact, it seems like John Wilder just can't make it as a husband and father. He's a man who comes and goes as he pleases, and in the process of trying to find happiness and meaning in his life, he just experiences much of the same, just in different locales.
This is one of those novels where there are not any likeable characters, but yet the story is so well written that you'll be anxious to find out what happens to John Wilder and his family. Yet, another Yates book with more dysfunctional people and a story held my interest throughout. Can't wait to read more by Richard Yates.