Feb 01, 2022, 06:27AM

That’s How People Are

A 1972 Ploughshares interview with the late novelist Richard Yates vs. a 2013 Interview Magazine interview with novelist Tao Lin.

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Richard Yates: I know it’s all very fashionable stuff and I know it provides an endless supply of witty little intellectual puzzles and puns and fun and games for graduate students to play with, but it’s emotionally empty.

Tao Lin: After I sold the stuff, I wanted a vegetable juice because I feel more energized and healthy if I have that, so I took a cab to Organic Avenue on 9th Street and got the juice and a coffee.

Yates: An appropriate metaphor. I think that’s a cheap answer.

Lin: It just seems average, like what I should get. Does that make sense?

Yates: Oh, I’m certainly not trying to say that autobiographical fiction is impossible. 


Lin: And then it seems like time is starting to move faster. It just seems like I’m moving really quickly towards death while not becoming happier.

Yates: I’d love to see that happen.

Lin: It just seems too complicated. That’s usually the situation.

Yates: And it wasn’t easy. It still needs a great deal of revision, a great deal of work.

Lin: It was, like, a punchline. 


Yates: I thought of that girl dying in that way, and then the whole problem was to construct a book that would justify that ending.

Lin: She’s had another relationship begin and end since then. Just driving in the nice weather and listening to music.


Yates: I like a good movie, but I like a good novel better—possibly because when you read you can let the narrative pictures create themselves in your mind as you go along, rather than having them arbitrarily flashed at you, and that seems a more rewarding experience.

Lin: Whenever Bruce Willis and his wife or girlfriend were in bed together, I’m not sure if I cried, but I had to try really hard not to.

Yates: They’re standing on his front porch, and the last thing she says is something like “Carey, sometimes I don’t think I know what God is.” And he says, “Oh, Helen, it’s so simple: God is love.”

Lin: After some thought, it seems normal. That’s how people are. 


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