Rediscovering ‘Revolutionary Road’

Until recently, Richard Yates’s 1961 novel, Revolutionary Road was a cult book. As the NY Times describes its audience,

Revolutionary Road is a novel cherished by a passionate and protective coven of admirers (including, incidentally, Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men) who pass it along, the novelist Richard Ford has said, like a secret literary handshake. They cherish its honesty, its uncompromising exactness, the austere beauty of its prose.

And, now, thanks to the movies, it’s gone from cult status to bestsellerdom. Yates’s biographer, Blake Bailey described its long route to becoming a movie in a piece in Slate in June,

From the beginning, ambitious filmmakers couldn’t help being tempted by the book—a “tough” look at the squalid heart of the American Dream—but only tempted. In the end, would people really pay good money to see a movie in which almost everything ends badly?

The first reviews indicate that the answer will be “no.” In The New Yorker, David Denby applauds the movie’s ambition, but finds it lacking in many respects; “There’s a sourness, a relentlessness about the movie which borders on misanthropy.”

But awards may bring a larger audience to the movie. It has been nominated for four major Golden Globe Awards and is getting Oscar buzz. 

Whatever happens to the movie, this is a great opportunity to rediscover the book. Several articles will whet the appetite:

The tie-in edition is currently on the NYT Trade Fiction bestseller list:
  • Paperback: $14.95; 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 25, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0307454622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307454621

It is also being reissued as part of the Everyman Library (with an intro. by Richard Price, yet another major contemporary author revealed as a member of the cult):

Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness 

by Richard Yates, Introduction by Richard Price

  • Hardcover: $26; 696 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman’s Library (January 6, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0307270890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307270894

It was republished in trade paperback in 2000 as part of Knopf’s Vintage line:

  • Paperback: $14.95; 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 2 Reprint edition (April 25, 2000)
  • ISBN-10: 0375708448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708442

And, it was released last month as an audio tie-in (also available on OverDrive), reviewed in the December issue of AudioFile magazine.

  • Audio CD: Unabridged; $29.95
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; (November 25, 2008)
  • Reader: Mark Bramhall
  • ISBN-10: 0739359371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739359372
  • Library Edition: Books on Tape, $100
  • ISBN-10: 1415956766
  • ISBN-13: 978-1415956762
For more on Yates, check Blake Bailey’s biography of the writer, now in print in trade paperback:

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates 

Blake Bailey

  • Paperback: $18; 688 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (May 1, 2004)
  • ISBN-10: 0312423756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312423759

2 Responses to “Rediscovering ‘Revolutionary Road’”

  1. Dean Says:

    Revolutionary Road will probably remain a “cult novel” because of it’s relentlessly depressing portrait of a marriage descending into hell. The writing is superb and the description of suburban living in the 50’s (or maybe any decade?) is more than recognizable.
    This was Yates’s first novel and many think it was all downhill from there. However, many of his stories rival Cheevers and a later novel, Easter Parade, is quite goo.
    I do have a question regarding the new editions of Revolutionary Road – why is the Everyman edition listed in your coverage over 300 pages longer than the novel itself?

  2. Nora Rawlinson Says:

    Hi Dean;

    Good point about the Everyman edition being longer than the others. It includes his short novel, “Easter Parade” and a short story collection, “Eleven Kinds of Loneliness” as well as the intro by Richard Price.

    Thanks for the comment,