Book Diary: The Easter Parade (Richard Yates)


(finished reading on 07/09/2012)

This quote by Emily Grimes, The Easter Parade‘s protagonist – and a younger sister, like me – is what I say (semi-jokingly) about myself:

She stopped crying abruptly when she realized … these tears, as always before in her life, were wholly for herself – for poor, sensitive Emily Grimes whom nobody understood, and who understood nothing.

I too say that I only ever cry for myself, but there is one exception: anything related to my sister, or even just the theme of sisters, is guaranteed to set me off every time.  For example, I have had to give up listening to Antony and the Johnsons’, You Are My Sister because it leaves me bereft, adrift for hours after.  The Easter Parade has two sisters at its centre and, moreover, it is written by Richard Yates … I really should have known better.

Picture me please: on holiday, on a train, in Spain, sliding Yates from the seat pocket in front of me and thinking: ‘I’ve got seven hours – perfect!’  I read without pause, finishing shortly before the journey ended, in floods of tears and broken, totally broken.

An earlier holiday read uncovered this quote by David Sedaris about short stories:

A good one would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.

This is surely a perfect description of the experience of reading in general, and is exactly how I felt on finishing The Easter Parade, except that in addition I was inconsolable and devastated deep inside myself.

Why?  I wasn’t sure and needed to unpick it, so I wrote a list:

1.  The great, sad business of being alive and sentient.

2.  Unknowingly steering your course through life towards a destination of hideous, shattering loneliness.

3.  Of needing love above all things, but being unable to give or receive it fully.

4.  The inevitability of aging, that doesn’t appear inevitable until it’s too late.

5.  When you love someone so much (like a sister or a mother), that you can’t stand them.  When they need your help desperately, but you’re unable to provide it, and the following, harrowing realisation – too late (only after the finality of death) – that you were the only thing they had, and you them.


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