Richard Yates was born in Yonkers, New York in 1926. Yates’s family life was unstable during his early years; his parents divorced when he was three, and his family moved around the New York metropolitan area throughout the Depression. He later attended Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut, then enrolled in the Army and served in France and Germany during World War II.
Yates’s career as a novelist didn’t begin until 1961, when he published his best-known work, Revolutionary Road. The book achieved critical acclaim and was nominated for a National Book Award. He went on to publish six more novels over several decades: A Special Providence (1969), Disturbing the Peace (1975), The Easter Parade (1976), A Good School (1978), Young Hearts Crying (1984) and Cold Spring Harbor (1986)...Show More »
Yates was also a celebrated story writer, and published two collections, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1962) and Liars in Love (1981). After becoming a published author, Yates taught writing at numerous colleges, including Columbia, the New School, Boston University, Wichita State, and the University of Southern California, as well as the Iowa Writers Workshop. Yates’s body of work also included essays and screenplays.
Yates’s books examined middle-class, mid-century American life with an honesty that became the author’s trademark; he was acknowledged by writers such as William Styron and Kurt Vonnegut as the voice of a generation. Yates’s fiction was also a recognizable influence on numerous later, more commercially successful writers, such as Richard Ford and Raymond Carver. Yates’s own work did not achieve commercial success in his own lifetime, and much of it was out of print in the years after he died, in 1992. Since then, his literary reputation has been revived. An unpublished final novel, Uncertain Times, was excerpted posthumously in Open City in 1995. A comprehensive volume of Yates’s stories, The Collected Stories of Richard Yates, was published in 2001, followed by Blake Bailey’s biography, A Tragic Honesty, in 2003. More recently, a film adaptation of Revolutionary Road was released to widespread acclaim in 2008, pushing the novel onto the New York Times bestseller list.