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Disturbing the Peace [ DISTURBING THE PEACE ] By Yates, Richard ( Author )Apr-01-1984 Paperback (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. April 1984
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|Taschenbuch, 1. April 1984||
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Disturbing the Peace, acting in New York and later Hollywood in the sixties is referring to the upcoming unease of members of the lower middle class, living in standardized suburbs, earning enough money to participate in the progress of society but working in jobs which spend money but no sense at all. The protagonist, John Wilder, employed in advertisement, married to a nice woman and father of a son, shapes his rebellion by alcohol abuse. In one of these cases he ends up in New York Bellevue psychiatric hospital where he faces the possible consequences of his escapades. Deeply traumatized by the treatment there, he starts visiting doctors and joining meetings of the AA. Nonetheless it does not stop him drinking too much. During a business encounter he meets a nice young girl, wealthy by birth and 16 years younger. The affair brings her to the idea to make a movie about of Wilders experience at Bellevue. During the production Wilder has a breakdown.
After he is released and back in New York the young girl leaves him because she is going with a ghost writer of Robert Kennedy (which was a step in the real career of Richard Yates!) to Washington. Wilder is disappointed but re-establishes his marriage and continues to drink heavily until the girl comes back and tells him that she quit the relation to the writer, met her father who is rich and who gave her all the money they want to produce the movie in Hollywood. Wilder quits his job and leaves his family to go with the girl to Hollywood where they have a good start with an agent but where his alcohol abuse is facing a new dimension. The girl leaves him finally and he ends up in California psychiatry where he will never be released again.
The most indicating thesis behind the narrative structure seems to have more than one message. Firstly the shape of the existence of middle class has a deep contradiction in itself: It can deliver a better kind of living in a material way, but lacks in giving more sense. Secondly revolting in using drugs is a lethal illusion. And finally society is closing you up in a madhouse if you do not accept the rules of social piece and convention. If one wants to get an authentic impression of the roaring seventieth in western civilization the book will be a magnificent choice.
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"Everything began to go wrong for Janice Wilder in the late summer of 1960. And the worst part, she always said afterwards, the awful part, was that it seemed to happen without warning.
She was thirty-four and the mother of a ten-year-old son. The fading of her youth didn't bother her--it hadn't been a very carefree or adventurous youth anyway--and if her marriage was more an arrangement than romance, that was all right too. Nobody's life was perfect. She enjoyed the orderly rotation of her days; she enjoyed books, of which she owned a great many; and she enjoyed her high, bright apartment with its view of midtown Manhattan towers. It was neither a rich nor an elegant apartment, but it was comfortable--and 'comfortable' was one of Janice Wilder's favorite words. She was fond of the word 'civilized', too, and of 'reasonable' and 'adjustment' and 'relationship'. Hardly, anything upset or frightened her: the only things that did--sometimes to the point of making her blood run cold--were the things she didn't understand."
In this story the protagonist, John Wilder is an advertising salesman with a wife and young son. He is a very unstable man, who sometimes drinks to excess, and a womanizer to boot. From the very early beginnings of this story, he appears to be suffering some sort of a nervous breakdown. A friend drives him to Bellevue Psych hospital where he spends one week in an involuntary lockup, and his reflections demonstrate he is somewhat delusional at times as well.
"I've been a turd under everybody's feet all my life and I've just now figured out there's greatness in me."
When he is released from the hospital he, his unhappy wife Janice and their young, emotionless son Tommy take a trip to the country and try to pretend to be a family. It's evident that no weekend getaway can fix this family's problems. In fact, it seems like John Wilder just can't make it as a husband and father. He's a man who comes and goes as he pleases, and in the process of trying to find happiness and meaning in his life, he just experiences much of the same, just in different locales.
This is one of those novels where there are not any likeable characters, but yet the story is so well written that you'll be anxious to find out what happens to John Wilder and his family. Yet, another Yates book with more dysfunctional people and a story held my interest throughout. Can't wait to read more by Richard Yates.
What happens next could be characterized as an abrupt break with reality, but Wilder's week in Bellevue, where he is placed after an episode of "disturbing the peace," can be seen as an inevitable midpoint to something that has been coming for a long time.
When Wilder's reflections carry us back in time to his childhood and the break from his family of origin, we can catch a glimpse of what might have set off this dark journey for him. Now, though, he begins a downward spiral that will carry him into insanity that is horrific and vividly shown to the reader, almost as if we are in his head.
Wilder's alcoholism complicates his journey, but some might argue that the drinking led to the insanity, while others would point to the alcoholism as just another symptom of his madness.
What is most remarkable about this tale of one man's unraveling mind is how the reader can experience the descent with the character. Even though told in the third person, we can see his view of the world and almost feel what he is feeling. As unsympathetic as this character presents to us, we cannot help but feel his pain.
I liked how the story ended. It is 1970, and we are now slightly outside this man's "head" for awhile and can see what the supporting characters are feeling, and how they have fared afterwards. Our outside view also includes a glimpse of Wilder. A startling revelatory glimpse.
After I turned the last page, I felt stirred as I hadn't in awhile by a book. But not surprising for a Yates novel, Disturbing the Peace is a remarkable journey into one man's disturbed mind. Five stars.