Tuesday, April 24, 2007

20. A Good School by Richard Yates

Richard Yates pictureI was looking for Revolutionary Road as it came recommended by a few people, but they didn't have it at the Bibliotheque Nationale, so I picked this one up. I am prety sure it is autobiographical. It's the story of a middle-class New York boy who gets sent off to a boarding school in New England in the early '40s. Though it has the fading remnants of a strong old school tradition, it is financially failing and looked down upon or not even considered at all by the other private schools.

There really isn't much of a storyline. More like a series of moments and vignettes that connect together to show the last couple years of this school and the narrator's development through it. He starts out as a real social loser, but shows some skill in writing and gets a position on the school paper, which by the end of the book he is basically running. He still has his social problems, but they are nowhere near as acute as in his first year and the reader gains some satisfaction in this.

Overall, I liked the book, but it had its real ups and downs for me. There is a lot of homoerotic behaviour and suggestion, both in what happens and in the writing (this boy was beautiful, this boy made the teacher blush). I went to a boarding school and maybe it was because it was in Canada or the west coast or this time period, but we were not holding weaker boys down and masturbating them, as goes on here. I was suspicious whether this was real stuff that happened, or a New York 70s writer embellishing to make things more sexy. I'm conservative in this way and I was reacting to all this fruitiness in the first quarter of the book. But the writing is good and seems real and as it moved forward, I could believe the collection of people and there perspective on the war (all of the boys were being sent off to fight upon graduation). So it won me over in the end. A nice little book, though I retain some suspicions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand most of Yates' works are sort of vignettes, small stories in novel form, this sounds typical of that.

It sounds interesting, and I plan to read more Yates, but school stories tend not to speak to me so I probably won't rush this particular one.