1. Despite writing two excellent short story collections which included several stories now acknowledged to be classics, Yates, to his eternal chagrin, never had a story accepted by The New Yorker while he was alive. Apparently the magazine objected to his ‘mean-spirited view of things.’ One story ‘The Canal’ was belatedly published years after his death.
2. At one time Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, went out with Yates’s daughter Monica. His experience of meeting Yates was the inspiration for the Seinfeld episode, ‘The Jacket’ where Jerry meets Elaine’s father, an imposing novelist, and annoys him with his choice of clothing.
3. Yates once worked as a speechwriter for Robert Kennedy, and was also a screenwriter, with a credit for the World War Two film, ‘The Bridge at Remagen.’
4. All of Yates’s books were autobiographical, and he damaged many relationships due to the caustic portrayal of friends and family in his novels and stories.
5. Despite Revolutionary Road being a finalist for the National Book Award, the generally warm reviews all his novels and short story collections enjoyed and the admiration of writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, John Cheever and Dorothy Parker, Yates never felt his work gained the recognition it deserved. His books certainly never gained the sales they deserved. None of them sold over 12,000 copies, and all fell out of print in the years immediately after his death.
Ryan O’Neill is the author of The Weight of a Human Heart. He was born in Glasgow in 1975 and has lived in Africa, Europe and Asia before settling in Newcastle, Australia, with his wife and two daughters. His fiction has appeared in The Best Australian Stories, The Sleepers Almanac, Meanjin,New Australian Stories, Wet Ink, Etchings and Westerly. His work has won the Hal Porter and Roland Robinson awards and been shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Steele Rudd Award and the Age Short-Story Prize. He teaches at the University of Newcastle.