Saturday, August 7, 2010
In the Early 1980's, Gary Fisketjon at Vintage Books published a group of young authors under the Vintage Contemporaries imprint. The books were all paperback originals, and shared a common design scheme. Many of the writers published under the banner of Vintage Contemporaries went on to become the great authors of their generation: Richard Ford, Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Tobias Wolff, and a kid named Cormac McCarthy. I thought of this series recently when I realized that two of the authors from this series, Richard Yates and Frederick Exley, are the titular subjects of two works of fiction this coming Fall. Odd coincidence?
In Exley, by Brock Clarke, due out in October, a young boy in Watertown, N.Y. (setting for the great A Fan's Notes), goes in search of the author of his father's favorite book. The boy's father is hospitalized, and the boy thinks that Mr. Exley is the only one who can help. Doesn't help that Exley is dead.
And then we've got Richard Yates, due out next month by author Tao Lin, whose last book was Shoplifting From American Apparel. Not having read a word of this book, or even a description of its contents, I can't say whether the author of Revolutionary Road plays a part in the book beyond the title. I can say that, when I first started in the book biz oh so many years ago, Revolutionary Road was generally accepted as the best book you had never read. That's of course no longer true.
I'll finish with a short excerpt from Exley. In this scene, the young narrator examines his father's copy of A Fan's Notes, the talismanic book that holds such a powerful sway over and maybe holds the secret to the riddle of his father:
"I looked at the cover again. The corners of the cover were torn and wrinkled, the spine was split, and so many pages were dog-eared that you might as well consider the whole book dog-eared. It looked like it really was the only book my dad had read in fifteen years: it looked used, but more than that, it looked loved."
Hard to picture having that reaction to a Kindle.