Richard Yates is a novel by New York author Tao Lin. It’s about a man similar in personality, age, and location to Lin. The man’s name is Haley Joel Osment (like the actor). Haley is in a long-distance relationship with a 16-year-old girl from New Jersey named Dakota Fanning (like the actress). The book pretty much sticks with Haley the whole time as he woos Dakota and deals with her issues on top of his own difficulties as an aspiring writer (there are a lot of parallels between Tao and Haley, I’m not going to talk about that again but it seems almost autobiographical). Basically Dakota is depressed and has self-esteem issues and is bulimic and prone to overeating and sometimes cuts herself. Haley is an adult, and though his brain is wired similarly to Tao’s, he is clearly way more responsible and indeed feels like Dakota’s well-being is in some part his responsibility. If you want to learn what kind of a person Haley is but don’t want to read a book about him just yet, check out Tao Lin’s twitter. (sorry i said i wouldn’t talk about that again and I did, i’m sorry alright)
The book is narrated in Tao Lin’s style of saying exactly what is happening with the use of made-up phrases and unconventional thoughts from the characters. For example, the phrase “cheese beast” is introduced around the middle of the book and henceforth used pretty consistently until the end to mean a bunch of shit, including the original meaning but also things that don’t have much to do with the original meaning.
I’m not 100% sure that he uses that particular phrase incorrectly, it might be “party girl” or probably both. The point is that he does shit that normal writers try not to do in an attempt to draw the reader into the process of slang creation/assignment/usage, with the end result being a sense of ownership by the reader that provokes them to continue to use said slang, despite its unusual/nonsensical nature, which pretty much insures that no one the reader hangs out with (aside from Tao Lin readers [and Tao Lin, who is a Tao Lin reader[) will understand.
Before reading this book I read another book by Tao Lin called Eeeee Eee Eeee, which is narrated in a similar way but is surreal, whereas Richard Yates is a realistic novel, although it could be argued that the nature of the narration is unrealistic, except the arguer would be wrong, because unconventional narration is not unrealistic when the narrator is unconventional. I liked Eeeee Eee Eeee more because it depressed me less and made less sense to me, whereas Richard Yates feels like the retelling of the truth about very sad people who have a bad time together. To be fair, most of it isn’t that depressing. I just found the extended descriptions of Dakota’s psychological problems in some cases mirror my own and in all cases are a massive bummer and exist in the real world and that makes them sad.
I liked this book a lot and I will probably read it again. You should read it if you’re one of those people who don’t use punctuation on tumblr and are sad and ironic all the time, or if you enjoy unconventional narration in novels.