Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What Work Is, Part 3

A busy day. The first class of the new semester is at 4 and there is much that must be out-the-door at my day job before then. At least the syllabus is finished for my class. I don't know how everything that must be done gets finished, but recently, it seems to, which is a small joy. As Richard Yates wrote in his 1961 novel Revolutionary Road (Vintage Books, 2000):

"Our ability to measure and apportion time affords an almost endless source of comfort. 'Sycnchronize watches at oh six hundred' says the infantry captain, and each of his huddled lieutenants finds a respite from fear in the act of bringing two tiny pointers into jeweled alignment while tons of heavy artillery go fluttering overhead: the prosaic, civilian-looking dial of the watch has restored, however briefly, the illusion of personal control. Good, it counsels, looking tidily up from the hairs and veins of each terribly vulnerable wrist; fine: so far everything's happening right on time."

If you've read Revolutionary Road, you may also want to take a look at The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (Henry Holt & Company, 2001). It is difficult to imagine writers like Raymond Carver or Richard Ford without the work and influence of Yates (1926-1992). He certainly led a hard life. His biography, Blake Bailey's A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates (Picador, 2003) is also a terrific (and harrowing) read.

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