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Authors: Richard Yates

Young Hearts Crying

BOOK: Young Hearts Crying
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Acclaim for Richard Yates

“One of America’s best-kept secrets.… Keenly insightful, brutally honest … delivering a swift kick to the heart.”

—The Denver Post

“Yates writes powerfully and enters completely and effortlessly into the lives of his characters.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“[Yates] is an expert.”    —
Time

“Soft-spoken in his prose and terrifyingly accurate in his dialogue, Yates renders his characters with such authenticity that you hardly realize what he’s done.”    —
The Boston Globe

“What’s exhilarating about Yates is not his grasp of The Truth, but the purity of his vision and the perfection of his craft.”

—Newsday

“Richard Yates is a writer of commanding gifts. His prose is urbane yet sensitive, with passion and irony held deftly in balance. And he provides unexpected pleasures in a flood of freshly minted phrases and in the thrust of sudden insight, precise notation of feeling, and mordant unsentimental perceptions.”

—Saturday Review

“It is Yates’s relentless, unflinching investigation of our secret hearts, and his speaking to us in language as clear and honest and unadorned and unsentimental and uncompromising as his vision, that makes him such a great writer.”     —Richard Russo

“Mr. Yates’s eye and ear are, I believe, unsurpassed; I know of no writer whose senses are in more admirable condition. It is they that make his characters live, make these stories move and beat—they, and possibly another asset, the sure perfection of his writing.”    —Dorothy Parker,
Esquire

“If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction
[Revolutionary Road],
I am sure I don’t know what it is.”

—Tennessee Williams

 

 

Richard Yates

Young Hearts Crying

Richard Yates was born in 1926. The author of several acclaimed works of fiction, including
Revolutionary Road, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, Disturbing the Peace,
and
The Easter Parade,
he was lauded during his lifetime as the foremost novelist of the postwar “age of anxiety.” He died in 1992.

 

 

 

Books by Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road
Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
A Special Providence
Disturbing the Peace
The Easter Parade
A Good School
Liars in Love
Young Hearts Crying
Cold Spring Harbor
The Collected Stories of Richard Yates

FIRST VINTAGE CONTEMPORARIES EDITION, MARCH
2009

Copyright © 1984 by Richard Yates

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Young Hearts Crying
was originally published in the United States by Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, New York, in 1984.

Vintage and colophon are registered trademarks and Vintage Contemporaries is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:

Hal Leonard Corporation: Excerpt from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, copyright © 1963 by Northern Songs Ltd., copyright renewed. All rights in the United States and Canada controlled and administered by Songs of Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Hal Leonard Corporation.

New Directions Publishing Corp.: Brief excerpts from “Scene Two” and “Scene Four” from A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, copyright © 1947 by The University of the South. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.: “Watching the Needle-boats at San Sabba” from
Collected Poems
by James Joyce, copyright © 1918 by B. W. Huebsch, Inc., 1927, 1936 by James Joyce, 1946 by Nora Joyce. Reprinted by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress.

eISBN: 978-0-307-77265-7

www.vintagebooks.com

v3.1

 

 

 

To my three daughters

CONTENTS

Also by Richard Yates

PART ONE
Chapter One

By the time he was twenty-three, Michael Davenport had learned to trust his own skepticism. He didn’t have much patience with myths or legends of any kind, even those that took the form of general assumptions; what he wanted, always, was to get down to the real story.

He had come of age as a waist-gunner on a B-17, toward the end of the war in Europe, and one of the things he’d liked least about the Army Air Force was its public-relations program. Everybody thought the Air Force was the luckiest, happiest branch of the service – better fed and quartered and paid than any other, given more personal freedom, given good clothes to be worn in a “casual” style. Everybody understood, too, that the Air Force couldn’t be bothered with the petty side of military discipline: Flying and daring and high comradeship were esteemed over any blind respect for rank; officers and enlisted men could pal around together, if they felt like it, and even the regulation Army salute became a curled-up, thrown-away little mockery of itself in their hands. Soldiers of the ground forces were said to refer to them, enviously, as fly-boys.

And all that stuff was probably harmless enough; it wasn’t worth getting into any arguments about; but Michael Davenport would always know that his own Air Force years had been
humbling and tedious and bleak, that his times in combat had come close to scaring the life out of him, and that he’d been enormously glad to get out of the whole lousy business when it was over.

Still, he did bring home a few good memories. One was that he had lasted through the semifinals as a middleweight in the boxing tournament at Blanchard Field, Texas – not many other lawyers’ sons from Morristown, New Jersey, could claim a thing like that. Another, which came to take on philosophical proportions the more he thought about it, was a remark made one sweltering afternoon by some nameless Blanchard Field gunnery instructor in the course of an otherwise boring lecture.

“Try to remember this, men. The mark of a professional in any line of work – I mean
any
line of work – is that he can make difficult things look easy.”

And even then, brought awake among the sleepy trainees by that piercing idea, Michael had known for some time what line of work it was that he wanted eventually to make his mark in as a professional: he wanted to write poems and plays.

As soon as the Army set him free he went to Harvard, mostly because that was where his father had urged him to apply, and at first he was determined not to be taken in by any of the myths or legends of Harvard, either: he didn’t even care to acknowledge, let alone to admire, the physical beauty of the place. It was “school,” a school like any other, and as grimly eager as any other to collect its share of his GI Bill of Rights money.

But after a year or two he began to relent a little. Most of the courses
were
stimulating; most of the books
were
the kind he had always wanted to read; the other students, some of them, anyway, were turning out to be the kind of men he had always craved as companions. He never wore any of his old Army
clothes – the campus was crawling then with men who did, and who were largely dismissed as “professional veterans” – but he kept the modified handlebar mustache that had been his only affectation in the service, because it still served the purpose of making him look older than his years. And he had to admit, now and then, that he didn’t really mind the light that came into people’s eyes, or the quickening of their attention, when they learned he had been an aerial gunner – or that his playing it down seemed only to make it all the more impressive. He was prepared to believe that Harvard might, after all, provide a good-enough environment for learning how to make difficult things look easy.

Then one spring afternoon in his junior year – all bitterness gone, all cynicism drowned – he wholly succumbed to the myth and the legend of the lovely Radcliffe girl who could come along at any moment and change your life.

“You
know
so much,” she told him, reaching across a restaurant table to grasp one of his hands with both of her own. “I don’t know any other way to put it. You just –
know
so much.”

The Radcliffe girl’s name was Lucy Blaine. She had been chosen for the leading role in Michael’s first halfway decent one-act play, which was then in rehearsal at a small campus theater, and this was the first time he had worked up the courage to ask her out.

“Every word,” she was saying, “every sound and silence in this play is the work of a man with a profound understanding of the – you know – of the human heart. Oh, God, now I’ve embarrassed you.”

That was true – he was too embarrassed to meet her eyes – and he could only hope it wouldn’t make her want to change the subject. She wasn’t the prettiest girl he had ever met, but she was
the first pretty girl who had ever shown so much interest in him, and he knew he could get a lot of mileage out of a mixture like that.

When it seemed appropriate to offer a compliment or two of his own he told her how much he’d enjoyed her performance at the rehearsals.

“Oh, no,” she said quickly, and for the first time he noticed she’d been tearing her paper napkin into careful, resolutely parallel strips on the table. “I mean, thanks, and of course that’s nice to hear, but I know I’m not really an actress. If I were I’d have gone to
acting
school somewhere, and I’d be knocking myself out in summer stock and trying to get auditions and all that. No” – she gathered all the strips of napkin into her fist and gently thumped the table with it for emphasis – “no, it’s just something I like to do, the way little girls play dress-up in their mothers’ clothes. And the point is I could never’ve dreamed – could never’ve dreamed I’d be working in a play like this.”

He had already discovered, in walking away from the theater with her, that she was exactly the right size for him – the top of her head floated just at the edge of his shoulder – and he knew she was the right age, too: she was twenty; he would soon be twenty-four. Now, as he took her back to the drab room on Ware Street where he lived alone in “approved student housing,” he wondered if this persistent just-rightness, this pattern of near-perfection, could possibly hold. Wouldn’t there have to be a hitch in it somewhere?

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