Monday, January 18, 2010

Short Story Monday/A Really Good Jazz Piano by Richard Yates

Short Story Monday is hosted by John.

Although I did not want to read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, I knew that I did want to read more of his work. This short story seemed a good place to begin. It is in my Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, but was originally collected in Yates' book of short stories, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness published in 1962. It features two Yale graduates in France. One of them has an independent income and may spend his life just 'floating around,' while the other has a job waiting back in the States working for his father. The only women are girlfriends without much of a role in the story. Though the women had superficial parts, their presence did move the story along, teaching the reader more about Carson and Ken.

What I found interesting is that so often we read of the unattractive girl or the unpopular girl while rarely reading of her male counterpart. Ken is that man. He is a hanger-on to Carson, a man comfortable in society, and shallow with a cruel streak. He is overweight and has borne the burden of ridicule and disgusted looks his whole life. Only when Ken is with Carson does he feel alive and happy. In this story, we see them both separate and together, and discover what really makes each of them tick. The circumstances in the story cause a shake-up of their old pattern which provides the climax.

I thought A Really Good Jazz Piano was very good. Richard Yates does an excellent job of developing characters and setting, bringing the story alive.


  1. You've tempted me with your short stories so much. I'm blaming you and Edith Wharton for my new found love of short stories. I'm joining in this meme and have my first one up today. This has opened up a whole new way of looking at characters and plots and settings that is loads of fun. Thanks for getting me started on the short story journey.

  2. Ok Nan, I'm adding it to my ever-lengthening list of must reads. Yikes. I need to stop sleeping.

    You DO accomplish quite a bit. Don't you sleep?


    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  3. "What I found interesting is that so often we read of the unattractive girl or the unpopular girl while rarely reading of her male counterpart."

    That's interesting. I would say I've had the opposite experience. Then, when I compiled my reading list from last year I was surprised to find that I overwhelmingly choose male authors. I certainly don't feel that I prefer their books, so my Y chromosome has really been doing a number on my subconscious. Do you read more female authors?

  4. This is the second mention of Richard Yates I've seen today (Rachel @ Book Snob reviewed Disturbing the Peace). I loved Revolutionary Road and have been wanting to read more ever since. Thanks for another gentle nudge!
    My story this week is by Jonathan Franzen.

  5. I really need to add short stories to my reading.

  6. Margot, that's really wonderful! I'm very pleased. There's another short story blog you may be interested in:

    Sharon, oh yes, I sleep. I don't really read that much or that fast. :<)

    John, yes, generally I do read more women authors, but the men writers I do read haven't written about this type of male character. Maybe because a lot of the male writers I read are mystery authors?

    JoAnn, I've been reading about Rachel's reading adventures of Yates.

    Staci, only if you enjoy them! Not everyone does, though I am a big fan. Sometimes a short story is just perfect, in the same way a poem can be for me.

  7. It seems like Yates is more popular now than when his books were originally published. Glad u liked this one Nan.

  8. I definitely want to read more by him.


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