Thoughts about what Yates wanted, physically, in a woman………

DeWitt told me that when Richard Yates was in Alabama, at the end of his short life, and dying from emphysema, there was a young woman who looked after him. She told DH that RY had proposed to her but then, seeing her square ankles, had withdrawn the proposal. There is a real ‘leg’ obsession in his work. In the unpublished screenplay ‘The World on Fire’, Harold, the husband, toys with an affair with his secretary whose ‘legs aren’t bad at all’; this seems to decide it for him! Yates, it seemed, liked long, shapely legs, with small ankles, and petite, pert breasts. I offer no comment.

DeWitt and I discussed impotence, as it emerges in Yates’ work and as it may or may not have afflicted him – since he always wrote about what he knew, it seems likely: if abortion is his metaphor for the 1950’s, is his metaphor for the writer impotence? Just a thought I had. It emerges in Uncertain Times as I saw in the archive today, in The Easter Parade and in Young Hearts Crying. Obviously this is an issue I will have to give some attention to in my forthcoming PhD.

Handling his papers today and firstly still being able to detect the faint whiff of nicotine – yes, I smelt the papers – coming across more coffee stains amongst his Uncertain Times papers, phone numbers scrawled down the side or across the bottom of a page he’s working or ‘thinking’ on. It made RY step forward out of the folders of paper. I read a lot of interesting stuff today including the transcripts of the Ploughshares interview with lots of good bits that have been cut out about novels versus movies about the role of the writer and much more besides. Need to know if I can use this and will have to ask DeWitt.

Went, on foot, to the Museum of Fine Art tonight and had two lovely hours there.

I bumped into a lovely 19 yr old who was a bit bored of pacing the floor with maps so she took me on a personal tour. Fantastic. We had such a giggle. I saw two lovely Hoppers – same spirit as Yates – the shadows, the lonely girls, the late-night bars and urban scenes. Lots of lovely Singer-Sergeants though I can only manage a few at a time of those. There was a fantastic exhibition of an amazing photographer called Yousef Karsh; I didn’t know of him though a few of the pictures looked familiar. Just stunning pictures. Really great ones of Einstein, Hemingway, Albert Schweitzer, George B. Shaw, Audrey Hepburn and on and on but the best, by far (I thought) was one of Jacques Lipchitz, a sculptor who then did an amazing bust of YK which was there too. Reluctantly I dragged myself away from all that and went to the Japanese exhibition which was rather more somber but very special.

I had a Thai meal in Kenmore Sq spitting distance from Yates’s old homes; I sat and re-read ‘Builders’ – really an incredible story and a story which seems to hold the key for so many others. Then walked ‘home’; another half an hour in lovely mild warmish weather although it was dark and wet underfoot.


4 Responses to “Thoughts about what Yates wanted, physically, in a woman………”

  1. This is going great.

  2. Have you seen this:

    It came up under “possibly related posts.”
    I don’t think I’ve read that story.

  3. kateonyates Says:

    It’s a great story, a sort of re-working of Frank Wheeler in the office and all the ugly side of a young man trying to look after his mother in there as well….it’s quite shocking to realise that the mother in question is only 57. One assumes she’s so much older and that is so often the case…..I think you made that point once in an early blog on Yates.

    There’s also the repetition of the idea that the protagonist takes a ‘tragic view’ of himself, echoing a similar thought in ‘Saying Goodbye to Sally’. One assumes Yates liked to do the same; don’t we all? Sometimes. When it suits.

    D’you remember how taken I was with your phrase a ‘feathered fish’ of a film? Here’s one from Yates: a ‘shabby-genteel’ background. I like that.

  4. I believe there’s a Thackeray piece called “A Shabby Genteel Story.” We also have “Shabby Chic,” here in LA somewhere.

    How about this semi-Hollywood phrase I often use: “a high class problem.”

    Not making any progress on my Yates reading yet, I’m afraid. Less than 100 pages to go in The Bostonians, so I want to have that out of the way, all written up and posted, over the weekend.

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