Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Disturbing the Peace; Richard Yates


Author: Richard Yates
Publication Year: 1984
Publisher: Delta/Random House
Edition: trade softcover
Source: My Stacks
Date Completed: 5/4/2011 
Setting: New York
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

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.

27 comments:

  1. I sounds like I need to add some Richard Yates to my reading diet.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually enjoy novels with unlikeable characters that are well written. I love to hate them!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I tend to avoid books about dysfunctional people unless they're police detectives! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  4. New to me both the author and book so am adding this as well to my lists.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting review! I think that I'll have to start off with one of the novels by this author that you really enjoyed first though :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Diane, you're really enjoying the work of this author. I should give his work a try!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Haven't read this one yet, but in the biography Yates' daughter says that John Wilder's third and most devastating breakdown was "as true as [her father] could write about how [his breakdown in Los Angeles] went."
    Such a tragic life...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your excerpts have piqued my interest in this book. I loved the movie Revolutionary Road, but have not read any of his books. I think I will add this one to my list. Thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love Richard Yates; I have this book on my wishlist. I like how most of his books have very flawed characters - it makes his books so real. Also, I have this weird liking of reading about dysfunctional people.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am loving that I am getting a little bit of tutelage on the works of Yates from you! It does sound as though he specializes in dysfunction though! I would love to do just as you are doing, and read all of his books, and I thought this was a really cool and comprehensive review. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. That sounds pretty good actually. I have been accused of disburbing the peace a time or two myself!

    ReplyDelete
  12. A novel without likeable characters needs to be very well written to be enjoyable, but like Cathy I agree these are some of my favorite reads!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've not read Yates yet but this books sounds wonderful. Dysfunction and mental illness all under one roof. I am going to add this one to my virtual TBR shelf.

    ReplyDelete
  14. That quote..." being under everyone's feet ...and just finding a greatness in himself" I have just been recently feeling that so I think I could relate to this character..I always felt the greatness was left for others.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just picked up Easter Parade after reading your First Paragraph. I really looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've neve heard of this author--I'll have to check him out.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great review! Yates is soon becoming an author that I want to check out sooner!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Maybe I should read this one first and then I'll be totally blown away by Revolutionary Road.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've been wanting to read Richard Yates for quite some time. I even own Revolutionary Road, so there's no excuse to have not read anything by him yet.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I've wanted to read Revolutionary Road but still have not.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've read Revolutionary Road and enjoyed it. This book sounds interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Okay, okay, I'm getting Revolutionary Road.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying Yates so much. i've got Revolutionary Road to read soon and I'm looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I am now a big fan of Yates' work, since reading Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade. This one grabbed me, from your very first excerpt.

    I like reading about slowly disintegrating lives, especially when artfully presented by a wordsmith like Yates.

    I tried to read this review yesterday, but, of course, Blogger had other ideas! LOL

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I felt much the same way about "Revolutionary Road" in that I didn't like any of the characters but the writing was so great.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Sounds interesting, but you've made me think I need to get Revolutionary Road.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I just finished this book.
    I must to say, I like very much Richard Yates.
    His books are so actually in present tense.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thank again for visiting.

(I apologize for the word verification, spammers spoil it for all sadly.)