Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Review: Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates

Yes, as you can see, I am still obsessed with Richard Yates's novels. Love, love, love him. My goal is to try and read them all this summer. Not sure if that is going to happen but you gotta have a goal, right?

Anyway, here's the book summary. In Disturbing the Peace, Yates introduces us to John Wilder, an insecure thirty-something ad executive who, we learn right away, is in the middle of a midlife crisis - think unhappy marriage, job dissatisfaction, personal dissatisfaction, extramarital affairs, and booze -- lots and lots of booze. But, it quickly becomes clear that Wilder's crisis isn't really of the midlife variety. Rather, it's that he is flat out delusional. In other words, the man is mad - mad as insane, mad as addicted. Mad, mad, mad. Now, that's a good story line, if you ask me.

And, here's the review. Right from the start, Disturbing the Peace had a much different feel that the two previous Yates's novels that I've read (here and here). Yes, Yates still writes about ordinary, flawed characters who lives gravitate from a sense of normalcy to urgency, from order to chaos, from acceptance to rebellion. And, yes, Yates still writes great characters that involve us -- as clinical, distant observers and as close observers who feel, sometimes intensely, the experiences and emotions of the characters. But, Disturbing was different in two noticeable ways. First, the pace of it was much quicker; it kinda reminded me of an episode of ER - many more fast paced, crazy ER peaks, but consistently balanced by the slower paced valleys of the characters lives outside of the ER. Now, yes I do know that I wrote previously about how Yates creates a sense of urgency in all of his books, all of his main characters. And, this is true here too. Yet, it still feels different. Dare I say more urgent? Another difference? None of the characters were likable. Not a single one. And, I really wanted to like someone, his wife, his mistress, even Wilder.

As an aside, if anyone has read, or reads, Disturbing the Peace and would care to comment on the significance (or not) of including the peripheral storyline of race relations in this novel, please, please leave me a comment. I would love to read your thoughts.

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