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Being Sure

9 Comments 06 June 2010

I just finished reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.  I know so many people saw the movie, but I was reading Stephen King’s list of books from 2009 to read and it was one of his top 10.  King insisted that reading it was a must before seeing the movie.  I agree.  It is a beautifully written book and Yates a remarkable storyteller.  I feel as if I know April and Frank Wheeler personally and I became a part of their very complicated and messy lives.

I have been reading it on my Kindleand inevitably people would ask me what I was reading.  When I mentioned Revolutionary Road, I was generally greeted with moans and groans of “oh, that’s so depressing” or “that’s so heavy.”  The classics are full of pain, grief, and relationships that do not end in neat little packages with little bows on top.  Why would we only engage our minds in reading modern fiction that make us feel good?  The reality is that life can be heavy and depressing and reading a book like Revolutionary Road can provoke the reader to consider the complexities of their own lives.  Apart from these reasons, Yates’ use of language and voice are enough to deserve any readers attention.

While I was reading it I stumbled upon a quote by Yates in which he said, “If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy.”  He certainly weaves this theme marvelously throughout Revolutionary Road and the lives of Frank and April Wheeler as well as the other characters in the book.  It is not at all difficult to feel yourself understanding and even “being” Frank Wheeler as goes through the motions of his life.

Yates’ idea is a very challenging thought, his idea that we human beings are inescapeably alone.  While I know that can be the fate of many, and could even be my fate, if I choose it, I believe that we were created for relationship.  I also know that if we as human beings fail to have meaningful relationships we live tragic lives.  Yates paints a picture of this tragedy in his characters in Revolutionary Road and it is my opinion that their tragic flaw is in their inability to be known.  They  can not be authentic with themselves or with one another and therefore they live in utter isolation, incapable of meaningful relationship.

This book was written and set in the 1950s and yet it’s themes are as prevalent today as they were then.  I loved it.  I would love to be able to write with such skill.  To be able to create such poignant and moving stories…brilliant.  But not to worry, I will not end with such “heaviness” I do know that today is Sunday and that means that Pooh must make an appearance.  I have said that I see Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) as a philosopher and this is the case today as well.  Piglet is the voice today and he speaks to this need for human nearness, human relationship.  It is not a deep and mysterious thing that can not be understood, it is as simple as this,

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh,” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

That brings a great contrast to Mr. Yates concept of inescapable loneliness.  Being sure of those we know and love.  Today, I choose Pooh.  I choose relationship, as vulnerable as it makes me, as scary as it may be…it is worth the risk when I consider that remaining all closed-up will end in a tragic tale told by someone like Mr. Yates.

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9 Comments so far

  1. Judy Helfand says:

    As I said to you via Twitter, I have not read the book, but I have seen the movie. Twice. There are two other movies that stand out in my mind about the 50s: “Far from Heaven” (2003) with Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore (takes place also in CT and the husband’s name is Frank) and “The Hours” which was produced in 2002 also starring Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.
    What struck me about the stories weaved in each of these is that over the generations we still have the same problems, they are just presented with slightly different parameters.

    When you are young your parents instill in you that maintaining virginity until marriage is just way things are done. And, as you age, you begin to realize that the reason our parents were so emphatic about this RULE is that they themselves broke it.

    Watch the character, John Givings. How many families have someone who suffers from emotional/mental disorders…but god forbid we talk about it.

    Each of these stories/movies can start the conversation. What adds to our loneliness is that we are cautioned: “Don’t talk about it.”
    Thanks for talking!

    • Jorja says:

      Judy, I have only see parts of Far from Heaven and I have seen The Hours. These movies all provoke thought and that for me is an excellent quality! I think Revolutionary Road hits some big ones for women in mid-life…looking back, regrets, having to consider the future, and what we do with all of those thoughts and feelings.

  2. Kristy says:

    Jojo, I LOVED this post. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Your best post yet.

    Revolutionary Road broke my heart with its truth and tragedy.

    And that Pooh/Piglet quote never fails to mend me. 🙂

    • Jorja says:

      Kristy, thanks babe. I loved the book, would love to sit over a cup of coffee and chat about it! Where are you?

  3. Stephanie Kooienga says:

    Very insightful look into this book/movie! Yes, we are made to be known and to live in relationship with one another. Pooh and Piglet haven taken on new meanings in my world:)

    • Jorja says:

      Steph, Hey woman! I would write a ton more about this book, maybe I will in the future. Lots to think about for sure! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Kristy says:

    I’m in Greenville, SC now but we head back to Brasil on June 22. I had hoped to make my way to B’ham at some point, but it looks like we won’t. Even though the time has been longer than we planned, it’s moved so quickly.

  5. kate says:

    really beautiful.
    “i just want to be sure of you.” is profound.

    i want to add how thankful i am to get to “hear” you speak into my life again. i can’t sit in that coffee shop with you and your girls, but at least i can connect with you this way.

    (it does make me miss you too much though.)

    • Jorja says:

      Kate, I just want you to know my sweet friend that I am certainly sure of you and your friendship. I love you.


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things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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