"I much prefer the kind of story where the reader is left wondering who's to blame until it begins to dawn on him (the reader) that he himself must bear some of the responsibility because he is human and therefore infinitely fallible."
-- Richard Yates
"Madame Bovary, c'est moi."
-- Gustave Flaubert
A follow-up to my previous post on "Revolutionary Road":
I'm reading Blake Bailey's 2003 biography of Richard Yates, whose "Revolutionary Road" and "The Easter Parade" are among the novels I hold dearest. It's called "A Tragic Honesty," and I think Yates would hate the title. But maybe there are layers to it that I haven't yet discovered. I'm only up to 1959 and, despite a lifetime of alcoholism, emphysema, bipolar depression and a host of other physical and mental troubles, Yates survived until 1992. Perhaps the notion of "tragic honesty" is illustrated below, in Yates' sharp observations about the interplay between story and character in his own work and that of artists he admired. They're applicable to just about any narrative form:
"Another thing I have always liked about ["The Great Gatsby"] and ["Madame Bovary"]," he wrote, "is that there are no villains in either one. The force of evil is felt in these novels but never personified -- neither novel is willing to let us off that easily." [...]