Dismembering the American Dream offers a detailed study of the novels and stories of Richard Yates, fiction which examined mid-twentieth-century middle-class American life.
Since his death in Alabama in 1992, the work of American writer Richard Yates has enjoyed a renaissance, culminatig in director Sam Mendes's adaptation of the novel Revolutionary Road starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Dismembering the American Dream is the first book-length critical study of Yates's fiction.
Kate Charlton-Jones argues that to read Yates's tales of disordered lives is to uncover not misery, though the lives he describes are sad ones, but a profound, enriching, and humorous understanding of human weakness and vulnerability. Yates's narratives absorb his readers so entirely, mirroring their own emotional highs and lows with such skill, that reading becomes recognition. Yates demonstrates his ability to tease powerful human drama out of the most ordinary, quotidian moments. At the same time, Yates's fiction displays an object lesson in the art of fine prose writing, so it is no surprise that many early fans of Yates were established writers.
Charlton-Jones explores how Yates extends the earliest form and investigates three main recurring themes of his fiction: observations about performative behaviour, which are at the heart of all his fictions; his conception of the writer's role in society, and how he envisages the development of social and sexual relationships. Furthermore, Charlton-Jones illustrates how Yates incorporates some of the concerns and methods of postmodernist writers but how, nevertheless, he resists their ontological challenges.
Drawing on the author's personal papers and with a foreword by DeWitt Henry and a special afterword by Richard Yates's daughter Monica, Dismembering the American Dream provides an extended critical examination of the often neglected but important work of this talented author.