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'89 Encores : On this last day of the year, and of the 1980s, the View staff pays a return visit to some of the people who made news in 1989. : Ending Uncertainty

December 31, 1989|ELIZABETH VENANT

When he was 36, author Richard Yates wrote a novel, "Revolutionary Road," which was lavishly lauded by playwright Tennessee Williams. In the decades since then, Yates has consistently produced books that have been critically praised but commercially unrewarding. His themes have never been upbeat, and he has supported himself and his family largely on fees from teaching creative writing classes.

When he was interviewed last July, Yates was teaching at USC while working on a novel based on material drawn from his stint as a speechwriter for Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy.

The book's title--"Uncertain Times"--sums up the writer's financial status over much of his working life. Ironically, it is "Uncertain Times" that has brought Yates the measure of economic security he has long sought to support his writing.

Contracted to another publisher for the book, Yates was unexpectedly offered a two-book contract with his long-time supporter, Seymour Lawrence, who gave him the advance to write his first novel nearly 30 years ago. "It was a lucky break," allows Yates, who is winding up his teaching obligations at USC this month.

For the new year, Yates looks forward to devoting all his time to his book. "Uncertain Times" is scheduled for publication in the spring, and perhaps for Yates, times will be uncertain no more.

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