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Richard Yates: A Novel [Paperback]

Tao Lin

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Book Description

Sept. 7 2010
In a startling change of direction, cult favorite Tao Lin presents a dark and brooding tale of illicit love that is his most sophisticated and mesmerizing writing yet.

Richard Yates is named after real-life writer Richard Yates, but it has nothing to do with him. Instead, it tracks the rise and fall of an illicit affair between a very young writer and his even younger--in fact, under-aged--lover. As he seeks to balance work and love, she becomes more and more self-destructive in a play for his undivided attention. His guilt and anger builds in response until they find themselves hurtling out of control and afraid to let go.

Lin's trademark minimalism takes on a new, sharp-edged suspense here, zeroing in on a lacerating narrative like never before --until it is almost, in fact, too late.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (Sept. 7 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554158
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554158
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #353,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“[G]enuinely funny...accurate, often filthy dispatches on what it is to be young and pushing against the world.”
—Charles Bock, The New York Times

"Lin captures certain qualities of contemporary life better than many writers in part because he dispenses with so much that is expected of current fiction."
David Haglund, The London Review of Books

Richard Yates is neither pretentious nor sneering nor reflexively hip. It is simply a focused, moving, and rather upsetting portrait of two oddballs in love.”
—Danielle Dreillinger, The Boston Globe

"[A] batty and precisely penned novel....[Tao Lin] has, in methodically stacked increments, become a legitimate writing presence."
Carrie Battan, The Boston Phoenix

"[Lin's] lean and often maniacal sentences propel the work forward with a slanted momentum. What first seems like a stock tale of romance gone sour evolves into a parable about the fickleness of human desire and the futility of detachment when it comes to love."
Time Out New York

Richard Yates is a moving, very funny, discomforting, and heartbreakingly life-affirming meditation on extremes—extreme alienation, extreme intimacy, extreme confusion, extreme expectations—that reads like a meticulously and lovingly crafted collaboration between a weirder Ernest Hemingway and a more philosophically-minded Jean Rhys.”
James Frey, author of Bright Shiny Morning and A Million Little Pieces

Richard Yates is hilarious, menacing, and hugely intelligent. Tao Lin is a Kafka for the iPhone generation. He has that most important gift: it’s impossible to imagine anyone else writing like he does and sounding authentic. Yet he has already spawned a huge school of Lin imitators. As precocious and prolific as he is, every book surpasses the last. Tao Lin may well be the most important writer under thirty working today.”
—Clancy Martin, author of How To Sell

“[Richard Yates] is like a ninety-foot pigeon. You’ve never seen anything like it before, and yet it is somehow exactly like the world we live in.”
—Daniel Handler, author of Adverbs

“It would be easy to say that Richard Yates is Tao Lin’s best book yet. Others have said it. Plainly, however, it’s not—Richard Yates only proves that Tao’s work, as it should, undoes any pretensions to ‘best’ or ‘worst.’”

“Tao Lin writes from moods that less radical writers would let pass - from laziness, from vacancy, from boredom. And it turns out that his report from these places is moving and necessary, not to mention frequently hilarious.”
—Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You

“Do you read Tao Lin and think ‘I love this! What is it?’ Perhaps it is the curious effect of a radically talented, fecund and tender mind setting down a world sans sense or consequence.”
—Lore Segal, author of the Pulitzer-Prize nominated Shakespeare’s Kitchen

 “Fascinating and articulate in a way that people my age (incl. um, like, you know, myself) rarely are.”
—Emily Gould, author of And The Heart Says Whatever
“Prodigal, unpredictable...impossible to ignore.”
Paste Magazine
“A master of understatement–or, rather, of statement.”
Vice Magazine

“A deadpan literary trickster.”
The New York Times

“Lin’s fiction is a wonderfully deadpan joke.”
The Independent

“Deeply smart, funny, and heads-over-heels dedicated.”
—Sam Anderson, New York Magazine

“[A] parable about the fickleness of human desire and the futility of detachment when it comes to love.”
Time Out New York

“Lin’s sympathetic fascination with the meaning of life is full of profound and often hilarious insights.”
Publishers Weekly

“Meet literature's Net-savvy new star.”

"There is danger and sadness in his work, but not defeat."
 —Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

About the Author

Tao Lin is the author of the novels Richard Yates and Eeeee Eee Eeee, the novella Shoplifting from American Apparel, the story collection Bed, and the poetry collections cognitive-behavioral therapy and you are a little bit happier than i am. Translations of his books have been published around the world, including in France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Norway, Serbia, South Korea, China, and Taiwan. He lives in Manhattan.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Written like a lot of these reviews July 27 2011
By Shannon - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with the other reviewers that say this novel is high on style but low on substance, that it's affected. I like that it's slow-burning and constantly shifting, and the way my brain gets into a new grove of reading/hearing/seeing facts and short statements, so that my perception of the world is changed for a bit when I stop reading and go to make dinner, or whatever. Never mind its main characters are sort of terrible -- and not in a compelling way, just in a, oh, come on, sort of way.

But when I allowed my suspension of disbelief to snap, when I stopped trusting the author, it all came crumbling down, and I couldn't read more than a few sentences without rolling my eyes. It felt like listening to the kid in your freshman dorm who seemed so wise and fascinating, and then meeting him again three years later and thinking he's just full of it. The type who wears lamé American Apparel leggings and an artfully holey American Apparel tank top at 3 pm on a Wednesday in the Lower East Side. Just, no thanks.

To get a feel for the style of the writing, check out some of the other reviews here, especially the top ones. They're written in the same way as the book. Short sentences with simple structures that say facts. One after another. Maybe repeating words from the previous one, to really dig deep. Seems fresh at the beginning, and I liked doing the extra work that this style masterfully encourages, but after a while, it just grated on me.

Worth picking up to see what all the fuss is about, and I can't wait to see what Tao Lin does when his less-than-subtle style matures a bit. But for now, this isn't my favorite book. Even though I'm 25 and live in Brooklyn.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a hip read at the beach Oct. 11 2011
By a.dolan - Published on
I read 'Richard Yates' on a work night in the beginning of the week alone in my room. I had heard that 'Richard Yates' was a true account by the author, which was primarily my motivation to read it. I had only ever read 'Shoplifting' prior to reading 'Richard Yates.'

The content made me feel, at first, shame and resentment for my own teenage mistakes. I also felt uneasy and inadequate that I didn't find it as humorous as other people did. So, at first, I felt negatively towards `Richard Yates,' as it made me feel poorly.
I didn't want my initial reaction and past experiences to shape my opinion of the book. After a week's worth of thought, I realized that I had received exactly what I wanted from `Richard Yates;' a literal retelling of events from a narrator unmotivated and unconcerned with my or anyone else's opinion of them. Behind the seemingly fake method of building a familiar brand is a product that is unusually authentic. It is likeable at times and unlikable other times. The book satisfied my curiosity about the author's life. This thought made me feel calm about the book. Things that I perceive to be authentic make me feel good about society and culture. I feel good. Thank you for `Richard Yates.'
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This Sept. 8 2010
By Leigh Alexander - Published on
Most refer to Lin's taut, blank prose as an 'in-joke' that they feel excludes them. Rather, 'Richard Yates' is the author's finest demonstration yet of a rare and profound courage: that which it takes to describe the most heart-wrenching and least-explored facets of the human condition with simple direction, and without the safety net of embellishment.

It's a demonstration of understanding that such things need no embellishment; that the voids, absences and repellently-common weaknesses within everyday individuals are as meaningful when explored plainly as the most vaunted and decorous conflicts in far more elaborate literature.

Yes, Lin writes primarily from and for a generation accustomed to communicating in literal, digitally-enabled prose lines. Yet in applying such a cultural norm to his own work, he illuminates without any special effort the unique and nakedly-honest troughs in the hearts of the millennial young.

Further, with the sort of efficacy that must only come from deeply personal observation, Lin applies himself to far more complex monsters, such as casual kleptomania or unexamined impulse behavior. Most prominently, his fashion of prose bluntly unveils the germination of a severe eating disorder in a teenage girl, in what may be the most faithful and effective rendition of such a condition in literature to date.

At the same time, there is nothing insular about 'Richard Yates'. While being a missive from and for a generation whose two worst fears are to be alone and to be mundane, in that order, there is a timelessness about the relationship portrayed in the book -- a tragedy of two who seek completion and approval from one another so greatly it devours and starves their ability to love one another. Alternately, it explores the great frequency with which dysfunction is often mistaken for (or interchangeable with) love in the modern era.

Much public assessment of 'Richard Yates' has unfortunately hinged on the age gap between the protagonists, one that has actually become much less shocking and far more commonplace among the twenty-somethings of today. Like Nabokov's classic Lolita, the book's primary merit lies in the poignant and thought-provoking interactions between two wildly dysfunctional and distasteful individuals; this is an end toward which taboo (if any) is simply a vehicle, not an end in itself.

Lin is frequently dismissed by many in their eagerness to vent resentment for feeling excluded from or irrelevant alongside a certain subset of internet-savvy individuals. The fashion of delivery would be relevant even in a vacuum. You should just buy the book, discard, if possible, any prejudgments, and appreciate it on its multiple levels.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soup Can Art? Nov. 19 2013
By W. J. TAYLOR - Published on
This novel by Tao Lin will challenge the reader’s concept of art in much the same way that Andy Warhol did with this Campbell’s Soup can and his eight-hour movie of a man sleeping. Lin’s novel has insistent deadpan dialogue and a slew of emails just as insistently deadpan. A random—I swear—choice: “What’s going to happen”” said Haley Joel Osment. / “I don’t know. I can’t leave here. She won’t let me leave.”/ “Is she calling the police?” said Haley Joel Osment. / “No, I don’t think she will. I have to go. She’s here.” / “ I don’t know what to say,” said Haley Joel Osment. . . . And that was one of the more exciting exchanges. Just as Warhol argued that the act of freezing something completely realistic into an artifact de facto turns it into art, Lin must believe that freezing banal conversations between a sixteen year old girl and a twenty-three year old young author too constitutes art. And I’m not arguing the fact.
Moreover, I believe his two—three if you count the mother—all change in this novel. For the worse, unfortunately for each. The two younger characters seem involved in a folie a deux much akin to the characters in Angela Carter’s lovely but depressing novel LOVE. I’m not a stickler who claims that there must be at least one likeable character in every novel. Nope. Not at all. My overall reaction to this short novel (206 pages) is that it was painful to read. Painful in a good way in that the wandering exchanges were so angst-filled and young; painful in a bad way in that there seemed to be little or no arc in the novel’s plot—which is nearly non-existent, other than the changes that the characters undergo ever so slowly.
One last criticism, and this isn’t of the novel, but of a review I read of it: I’m loathe to identify Haley Joel Osment with Tao Lin. I’m also loathe to believe that Osment is inspired by a Richard Yates novel to leave the 16, then 17 year old Dakota Fanning at novel’s end. Rather, I believe that this novel could have continued for a thousand or more pages of painful dialogue before Dakota Fanning’s suicidal urges came to fruition, from the imbedded urges of both her mother and her lover. The two characters are stuck and intend to stay stuck.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Literature for and about today's generation April 23 2012
By ikirkwood62 - Published on
I've always been suspicious about novels that cater to a certain audience, even if only a little bit. I have read certain authors that avoid this so much they go so far as to not include real-life products in their stories, in order to make their book "timeless". While that's extreme, going so far as to create a story that only really applies to modern teenagers is extreme in the opposite way.

Richard Yates by Tao Lin is about Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning (not the real ones), an older hipster-type guy and a young teenage girl with some self esteem issues. They meet on the internet and start a relationship. This causes many problems in both of their lives.

The best thing about this novel is also the worst thing: it perfectly captures the current generation (my own).

But when I say that, I don't mean it like The Great Gatsby perfectly capturing the Roaring 20's. Because when Gatsby did it, it took the corrupted morals and ideas of a party-oriented society and used it as a springboard to discuss the morals and ideas of everyone, everywhere, at anytime.

Richard Yates does a really good job in creating two characters who represent the Millenials. They are self-centered, loathing, and outsider-type individuals. They fit the "hipster" bill perfectly, eating only organic and steamed lentils and raw diets and vegetarianism. But underneath the callous exterior lies uncertainty. There is a certain poetry about today's generation that is misunderstood by everyone else. Except Lin. He manages to capture it without a misstep.

But if you're an older person reading this, you might roll your eyes and shrug off my description of my generation. And that's okay, I don't blame you. The opinion is subjective and lopsided and totally biased to me, because I like to glorify my generation. And Tao Lin does, too. So chances are, if you are over the age of 26, you probably won't like this book.

There are definitely a few unexpected twists and turns among the plot. I do appreciate those. But ultimately, the story line is boring and dry.

The Writing style also leaves a lot to be desired. It's supposed to be ultra-minimalism at its finest, and instead it comes off as shallow and lacking imagination. Everything falls into a "subject-verb-object" type sentence without much variation. And that would be fine if it was pretty and beautiful, but its oftentimes ugly and not entertaining to read. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to re-read or keep reading, because the text can be hard to swallow.

On the back of the book, a question is posed " What constitutes illicit sex for a generation with no rules?" This question isn't fully answered, and neither is much else in this book. I'd *maybe* rent this from the library if I got the chance, otherwise, I wouldn't go crazy having not read it.

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