I’m Not As Bad As Richard Yates

Over Shabbos, I finished Blake Bailey’s superb biography of novelist Richard Yates.

I love reading biographies of great writers because I usually find that they share my flaws and yet have done great things. It gives me hope.

Yates had many mental breakdowns. During one episode, he ran around a friend’s house naked, urinating on the walls.

At least I’ve never done that.

Yates was frantic to excuse his alcoholism and breakdowns, frequently claiming "epilepsy."

Yates was always looking for a hot young chick to rescue him.

As he moved through his fifties and grew more frail, that became impossible.

He was terribly lonely. When he succeeded at seducing women, he was unable to finish the job (due to his alcoholism). Before falling asleep with his guest, he’d plead, "Please don’t leave."

Yates left his apartment unlocked because he knew he’d only lose his keys if he carried them around.

There was rarely anything in his hovels worth stealing.

During his last couple of years, he was sustained by his friendship with an admiring novelist and former Warner Brothers exec — Susan Baudy.

Yates finished his life at the University of Alabama. "The ordeal of looking after him, though, had been of such Sisyphean proportions…" (Pg. 582)

"As a driver Yates soon became a familiar sight in Tuscaloosa: a gaunt whiskered old man hunched over the wheel of his tiny car, a cigarette smoldering in one fist while the other clasped an oxygen mask to his face — "a bomb on wheels" as one student put it."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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