The Reading Room

Books For April

My book choices for the month ahead…

A couple of days ago I posted a picture of Richard Yates’ ‘Eleven Kinds of Loneliness’ on my social media platforms as a tip of the proverbial hat to the sterling work which Vintage Books (Penguin) do in rereleasing classic novels complete with some really wonderful covers. Their choice of books is truly inspiring and are particularly useful for fuelling my current obsession with twentieth century American literature. So, look out for the red spine on the shelves of your local bookstore!

First up will be ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates, I read this many years ago and so now, with I hope, a wiser, calmer head, I shall revisit this classic from 1961. I love those books which take hold of a life or lives which is suburban and mundane, put it under the microscope and show you the complexities which lie buried beneath the surface. Invariably they result in reminders of one’s own past and present and I am keen to study those who turned this process into an art form. With Don DeLillo’s remarkable ‘White Noise’ almost finished, this will be my first choice. Incidentally, if you are unfamiliar with DeLillo then begin with ‘Underworld’ and follow with ‘White Noise’, both fine lessons in the creating a story through dialogue. So, this book, written in 1961 depicts the lives of Frank and April Wheeler in 1950s America, bored by their residency in middle class suburbia, it is their story, their perspective and a review will follow next month.

Next up is ‘Selected Stories’ by John O’Hara, a remarkably interesting man whose life I intend to expand upon in more detail this summer. Another novel via Vintage Classics, the stories are: “refreshingly frank, sparely written stories that expose the world of bartenders, ‘b-girls’, car washers and criminals. John O’Hara dissects the subtleties that bind humans together and the pressures that separate them” O’Hara wrote a number of great novels including his first ‘Appointment in Samarra’ (1934) ‘Butterfield 8’ (1935) and ‘A Rage to Live’ (1949)  O’Hara was a flawed genius, a huge ego and a bad temper coupled with alcohol addiction won him few friends, but his writings on social issues, sex and sex workers, homosexuals and other social outcasts of 1930s, 40s and 50s America aided by his gift for dialogue make him one of his genre’s finest writers.

Finally, another book by Richard Yates; ‘Eleven Kinds of Loneliness’. First published in 1962, this collection of short stories studies the lives of ordinary Americans in the 1950s when the reality of the so-called American dream was beginning to show cracks in the framework. All but one of the stories are set in and around New York and this collection, despite average sales on first release (like most of his first editions) has become something of a cult classic amongst the literary set.

So, there we are, three to start with and once again, my thanks to Vintage Books for continuing to inspire. I wish you happy reading wherever you might choose to sit and whatever you like to read.

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