“Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates

richard-yates-revolutionary-road

“Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates was first published in 1961 but the solemn truth about life which it divulges still reverberates within the walls of each family house. So brilliant in its honest attempt to depict the dreadfulness of all human relationships, it has also been turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I have not seen the cinema production yet, but I can promise you that the novel would revolutionize your perspective. It is such a genuine portrayal of the purgatory of matrimony.

Frank and April Wheeler appear to be the perfect couple in the bright 1950s. They are smart, fun, open-minded and awfully in love. But the glossy exterior of their life is grossly misleading. As all other married people, forced together by adventitious circumstances, they have waged a myriad of skeletons in the closet of their immaculate suburban house on Revolutionary Road. Yet, a delusion can survive only so long. After a sordid fight in the middle of the road, at the dead of the night, they come to the realization that all they have been sweeping so cautiously under the carpet for the last 6 years has now become a cause of calamity. . Their consummate image of love, matrimony and amity is irrevocably shattered. In long silences and blazing arguments, Frank and April drift apart and are impelled to go to drastic measures to preserve their integrity.

Unlike all the other novels which portray affability and relationships, “Revolutionary Road” didn’t begin happily only to diverge into tragedy later on. It was solemn from the very first chapter till the end and even the sporadic elements of bliss that stole their way into the Wheeler’s life were marked with spuriousness. What made the novel poignant the universal truth that loomed in every action and decision of its characters.  It was scintillating to read about the absolutely drab, appalling side of human nature: the failed expectations, the unrealized aspirations, the helplessness of each individual and the meretriciousness of one’s alter ego. Richard Yates is the first person I have met who has dared to acknowledge the fallacy of marriage, friendship and camaraderie so simply.

At some level I have always sensed the falsehood of all interactions, yet simultaneously I continually harbored the flickering undying hope that there are few relations which transcend the pettiness of our ephemeral nature. However, the suburban nightmare is diffusing in our urban lives as well. There is no complete accomplishment of the notion of the American dream. Instead of liberating and inspiring people, it binds them to the fetters of social conventions and anachronistic stereotypes. Smiling, being polite, staying in one’s good graces, going out and keeping up the ever so fake tone of conversation – those are necessities preliminary for our survival and a guaranteed participation in the act of a decent, respectable society. Our innate need to be accepted and approved upon lands us the lead role in that abysmal stage production.

The only people who peek behind the decorum are deemed as irrational and even insane as so often proves the case in literature (“Hamlet”, “Don Quixote” etc.). It is but treacherous, however, to believe that our reality differs at all from the apocryphal world. We are also stuck in a nightmarish existence feeling that our life passes by too quickly in a perpetual fear that we will never rise to the wisdom and vigor of the golden people. A fear that is well based. For we will not become the images we bear of ourselves unless we halt the pretense that we are happy and satisfied with our presence. We have to concede the awful truth to be able to live with ourselves uncompromisingly, and perhaps alter our final destination. We have to strive infinitely so as not to end up as stereotypes.

Mery

Mery

“Rainbow” by Rainbow Rowell

Lately I haven’t had the remotest urge to sit down and review-slash-analyse even books that have immensely impressed me. It’s not that my passion for literature has ditched me in the midst of the school term but that I have ignominiously failed to muster the courage to write simply because I can or I want to. Perhaps it turned out so because I was so disappointed with my IELTS writing result or because I am adept at convincing myself I am too busy to let halt crowding out all the words bubbling up in my mind unless I have a deadline. However, if I am to be completely candour with you and myself, the aforementioned reasons are collateral damage to a mild case of dementia. I had forgotten how amazing it is to let an apocryphal world linger in the words you have used to depict it and the keys you have pressed to share your experience with other people. How amazing it is to transform the universe of a stranger’s imagination into a part of your life, yourself and the one more personal and precious activity – writing.

“Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.” 

Fortunately, books do not exist solely to fulfill these purposes, but also to remind you of them when push comes to shove. ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell is one of those inspiring novels. Its story is quite simple and straightforward which made reading it all the more smooth and relaxing. It also made devouring it in two days easier! It centers around Cath who is an epitome of the nerd girl. She is obsessed with Simon Snow to the point where she lives to live in his magical world by writing fan fiction. But as a freshman in college she is bludgeoned into reality where the villains cannot be transmuted into charming benign gay characters with a clatter of the keyboard.

“It felt good to be writing in her own room, in her own bed. To get lost in the World of Mages and stay lost. To not hear any voices in her head but Simon’s and Baz’s. Not even her own. This was why Cath wrote fic. For these hours when their world supplanted the real world.” 

Cath and her twin sister Wren (Cather and Wren! Get it?) are forced asunder as one strives to remain true to herself, her past and the passions and the other succumbs to the pressure to fit in with the vapid masses of drunken freshmen. Boy troubles, hospitalization, coruscating dialogues, emergency dance parties and some deep family tragedies made it impossible for me to give ‘Fangirl’ a wide berth.

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too. I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.” 

It lacked all that usually impess me in a novel – a complicated writing style, a lot of highlights, sombreness etc. However, the striking resemblance between Cath’s and my own life took the escapism to a whole new level. It endowed reading with a pungent taste of reality. I realized that I was at school persistently ignoring the vain conversations of my classmates but simultaneously Pound Hall felt so tangible for I knew it might be me there betaing brazen Nick’s unreliable narrator. It was an unprecedented experience for the complete 14 years that the peculiar characters on the page have been making sense!

“Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.” 

Cath’s refusal to give up on her fanfiction ‘Carry On, Simon’ despite the consuming demands of her education inspired me to sit down and write a tad different review of ‘Fangirl’ even though it is the middle of the night. The novel prompted me to realize that there is always a way to make time to write about the literature you adore and to find people who not only accept your zest for the written world, but understand it. Moreover, it gave me a whole new appreciation of fanfiction and the marvel of fandoms!

This was nothing like my typical reviews. However, ‘Fangirl’ isn’t a typical book, either. It’s not as thought-provoking and meaningful as ‘The Beginning of Everything’ or ‘Looking for Alaska’ but it is much more real and pertinent to a young adult’s life. Cath is by no means a manic dream pixie girl. She is simply a girl and that’s why it is effortless to root for her.

P.S. The ‘Simon Snow’ series by Gemma T. Leslie doesn’t exist despite my absolute conviction it was real while reading the book and writing the review. That explains its similarity to ‘Harry Potter’ which no one else seemed to notice.

Mery

Mery