David Denby, Wrong About Everything, Always, Since 19Whenever

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12/18/2008 4:00 PM |

Like most of you I mostly just try to ignore him except to think about how long it will be until he retires and we all get angry at the botched opportunity that is his replacement (not that it’ll happen, but it would be pretty awesome if they picked Nick Pinkerton), but here in his Revolutionary Road review is a failure of perspective that comes close enough to being a demonstrably false statement that I feel moved to berate him on my blog. So:

Just two years after Yates’s book came out, Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," whose resonant starting point is the puzzling misery felt by suburban housewives like April—women allegedly living the American Dream, complete with wage-earning husband, multiple children, and good china. It would be inane to fault Richard Yates for not possessing an explicitly feminist consciousness, but he never suggests that April suffers from even the slightest social constriction, and neither does Mendes. April is isolated in her own neuroses…

Really, he doesn’t? That scene when her husband arrives home from his job (late, because he’s been banging a girl from the typing pool), and April answers the door in, Yates is sure to mention, a (housewifely) apron over a (sexy) cocktail dress, his whiskey already fixed up? That’s meant to be read as entirely on her? That her two last acts as a living person are (spoilers, obvs) fixing her husband breakfast and trying to perform an illegal and dangerous abortion on herself? (End spoiler.) That she fantasizes about moving to another country and getting a job? Really, David? Richard Yates has no concept of the housewife as restrictive socially decreed role? I mean, it’s nice that you’re willing to be hopelessly off in an effort to prove your (occasionally suspect) feminist bona fides, I guess…

God, I bet everybody at the New Yorker exists in a constant state of wanting to smack David Denby in the face.

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