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Issue 89 - Leaving the city

Whisky Magazine Issue 89
July 2010

 

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Leaving the city

Jefferson Chase heads for the ‘burbs.

I'm now at an age when I sometimes think I've seen it all and then realise that there are lots of things I've never done and probably never will. One example is never living in any kind of suburb. After reading Richard Yates' 1961 novel Revolutionary Road, I think I can live without the experience. The story revolves around a 30- something couple, Frank and April Wheeler, who leave New York City to raise their kids in the fresh air and try to get along, and end up struggling with the question of whether their lives are the sort worth living at all.

After a couple of years in the ‘burbs, even relatively simple forms of communication have become a burden – and a few evening glasses of hooch, a necessary relief.

Almost anything, it now seemed, would have been a better thing to say than what he'd said.

But he would think of better things to say later; right now it was all he could do to stand here and think about the double bourbon he would have when they stopped on the way home with the Campbells.

This scene, from early in the book, isn't the only time Frank Wheeler reaches for the bottle.

Revolutionary Road is a talky novel, but what really makes it come alive is the stark contrast between the pseudo-intellectual things the characters say and brutal directness with which Yates relates their inner emotions.

A nosy, self-righteous, real-estate-obsessed neighbour of the Wheelers, for instance, proves to be an emotional wreck in private.

She cried because she'd had such ...

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