Friday, October 28, 2011

Review of Richard Yates By: Tao Lin

Richard Yates
By: Tao Lin

Summery from Amazon:
In a startling change of direction, cult favorite Tao Lin presents a dark and brooding tale of illicit love that is his most sophisticated and mesmerizing writing yet.

Richard Yates is named after real-life writer Richard Yates, but it has nothing to do with him. Instead, it tracks the rise and fall of an illicit affair between a very young writer and his even younger--in fact, under-aged--lover. As he seeks to balance work and love, she becomes more and more self-destructive in a play for his undivided attention. His guilt and anger builds in response until they find themselves hurtling out of control and afraid to let go.

Lin's trademark minimalism takes on a new, sharp-edged suspense here, zeroing in on a lacerating narrative like never before --until it is almost, in fact, too late.

My Review:

Richard Yates is about Haley Joel Osment and his minor girlfriend Dakota Fanning. The novel follows their relationship from the first time they meet to well into their slightly deranged relationship.  Altogether the age difference is the least of their problems.
 I pretty much hated Haley from the beginning. Not only was he taking advantage of an obviously mentally unstable young girl.  Which in itself is just slimy. But he is also whiny and self-absorbed. Dakota is naive enough to fall for Haley's self-righteous schtick.  But she herself is not innocent of the same whiny, self-obsessed traits, however since she is sixteen there is some excuse there.  Or maybe it was just since the novel was told primarily from Haley's perspective.  Maybe if I had heard Dakota's inner thoughts I would have hated her for the same reasons I hated Haley.  Instead of the just utter dislike and contempt I felt for her.   Haley and Dakota refer to pretty much everyone they encounter as 'party-girls' and 'cheese beasts'.  At times it  seems surprising that they could even stand each other. They steal from any store they walk into without a second thought.  Even at one point when Dakota is caught she acts as if it is of no importance.  They throw thoughts of suicide at each other as if it doesn't matter.  
Haley is completely stuck on Dakota.  Constantly questioning every look she makes, every movement, trying to interpret if it means she really wants to be around him.  But as their relationship progresses he becomes controlling and domineering to Dakota.  Giving her orders on what to eat, how to behave, etc.  Dakota wavers between completely needy and obsessed with pleasing Haley, to being an almost pathological liar.  My personal favorite in the whole story is where she sends him an email telling him all the times she's lied to him.  While unfortunately it shows how bad her eating disorder has gotten, at the same time it shows how she isn't being completely controlled by all his manipulative bs.
 In all honesty they reminded me of quite a few people I knew growing up. They are convinced they are better than everyone else.  Not because of money or looks, but because they assume they have a greater intellect than anyone around them. They believe this gives them the right to do as they please, even if this means hurting everyone around them.  Instead of being a deep as they think they are, they are actually shallow and empty. Sorta like the conch shell on the cover of the book.

Ok. I knew going into this book that is is suppose to be one of those deep, existential, thought provoking books. And it did make me think. Honestly the characters, besides just reminding me of people I knew, and still know, they also reminded me of that episode of South Park, where people are running around sniffing their own farts and saying how wonderful they smell. Unfortunately this book wasn't quite as funny as that episode. I'm not saying this is a bad book. On some level it's a great study of how shallow and self-absorbed people can be, and how this leads them to isolate themselves.  I'm sure there are many ways it can be translated. If you like existentialism or a book that will make you feel deep and meaningful, or where you can read into someones thoughts and actions and analyze everything that is done. Then read it. If you just want a book to read. Where you actually might like the characters, or at least a story you can get lost in. Yea, this is probably not what you want to read.  I read somewhere that Tao Lin is one of those writers you either love or hate.  I don't hate him.  I just don't like this book. I found it the characters pretentious and pointless.  But I can admire Lin's writing.  His characters never did anything out of character. He didn't shy away from portraying them as he saw them, even when it was offensive or would cause you to hate them more. Since the description of this book says it is a "startling change of direction" for the author I would probably even read more of his work if given the opportunity. 

*****In compliance with FTC guidelines, I'm disclosing that I received this book for free through GoodReads First Reads. ****
(I recommend everybody should go check out all the awesome first read giveaways they have!)

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