Reading Tao Lin’s Richard Yates is, quite literally, like reading a novel written by an autistic obsessive-compulsive. This book demands your patience. It is more of a list than a story. More of a tedious home movie than a list. More of a droning, protracted zoom than a home movie.
Emotions are absent - they are replaced by objective descriptions of facial expressions. While this reminds us that a person with a worried facial expression and a worried person are not always one and the same, it also distances the reader from ever climbing into a character’s brain. We look at the fictional characters “Dakota Fanning” and “Haley Joel Osment” without insight or empathy. They live, and talk, and travel to New Jersey, and their actions are facts, and this novel is a record of those facts.
The facts being - the main characters are a young couple, who thrive on their dissatisfaction. They are lonely and self-isolating. They are bored to death. Out of this tedium and malaise, something sinister is growing. It is something that feeds on obsession and compulsion, something that breeds neuroses. This is a book that is particular to the gchatting, vegan smoothie drinking generation. It is repetitive to the point of fascination. It horrified me. I liked it.