To be a character in The Easter Parade is to move from home to home, and then from home to school, and from school to offices, and finally from offices and homes to hospitals and nursing facilities — and then to the grave. Life happens. Things occur without warning. “And then it happened,” writes Yates, with the spare naturalism of J. London. Sarah meets her future husband Tony on the landing, “his fine English shoes barely touching the thread of each warped step….” Or the phone rings. “Your father died this morning, dear.” He was coughing last week. Now he’s dead of pneumonia. Characters are born, they live for a while, and then something happens. A cough, for instance. Or a hope is dashed or an ambition thwarted and loneliness creeps up on them unawares. As a prose stylist, Yates is so bloody good at making transitions in space and time, from one thing to the next. They’re graceful and effortless, truly amazing to behold. When I read him, I often catch myself blurting out loud, “Wait, how did he just do that?” I scratch my head, and reread the elegant passage. He does it by doing it. Yates doesn’t tarry. Turn to a random passage in The Easter Parade, and you’ll see his magic at work. “A week later…,” “Once, when the girls went to visit him…,” “In 1940 they moved back to the city…,” “A very few days later he knocked…,” “It was the summer of 1961, and she was thirty-six,” and so on. Of course, I have more to say about Yates. But lacking the master’s skillful touch, I have no clue how to get from here to there. So it will just have to wait.
on yates’ prose, or how to get from here to there