Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Revolutionary Road


I have been reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates these days. Initially I thought it was quite conventional and straightforward in style and the theme of ennui and quiet despair of suburban life pretty hackneyed but it really sucked me in, to the extent that I found it really unsettling, even terrifying. Most reviews of the movie talk about pressure of conformism in the America of the 50s but it is much more than that. It made me think of what the underground man says in Dostoevsky's novella, that for ordinary life in modern cities the consciousness of an insect would be more than enough, that one doesn't need the consciousness of a human being (he further says that he wants to be an insect). The tragedy of the Wheeler couple is that they have a human consciousness with all its romantic aspirations and intimations of potentialities but they lack the spiritual and moral strength to take action. I am quite eager to see how the movie turns out to be. I wish Fassbinder would have made a movie out of it, though many of his films did tackle the same subject.

There was an essay by James Wood in the new yorker about Yates and Revolutionary Road.

4 comments:

dan visel said...

Glad you're back!

I remember liking this book when I read it a decade ago, but the movie doesn't really have me excited - Sam Mendes doesn't really strike me as someone who has a great deal of subtlety, and I worry that the movie will end up preaching "look at how much better we are now than people were then". Not quite the same problem with a book . . .

praymont said...

Your note on this work, and the recent one at Asylum, make me eager to finally read this book. Nice to see you're posting again.

Kubla Khan said...

so are you saying that you are back?

Alok said...

dan: I understand what you are saying. I had the exact same problem with American Beauty (specially with the Chris Cooper and Annette Benning characters) but I was reading a few reviews and the reviewers found it a little better while mentioning the same problem. It might be because it has a different screenwriter. I feel more apprehensive about the casting. No matter how good you are, the star persona will definitely interfere in the way you look at the characters, specially so if you are already familiar with them from the book. Casting somewhat less familiar faces would have been better I think.

paul: It is a bit gloomy and bitter for reading in the holiday season :) But otherwise it is quite impressive. Definitely worth reading.

kubla: yeah hope so. almost settled down now, things becoming normal too (as far as possible at least, a normal and peaceful life seems like an impossibility these days).