Richard Yates wrote Revolutionary Road, which we read for book club a while ago. It was very good, but also both sad and tragic. And I just finished The Easter Parade, a later book by Yates. Sad, too, and with a stunning tragedy that sort of comes from behind. It was really so good--the main character was just perfectly rendered. You could sort of see the author's own life echoing, though the main character is a woman. But based on some interviews I read, the alcoholism and lack of meaningful relationships was something he knew about.
But the tragedy that both follows inevitably from the whole story and also creeps up on you at the end, really hit me for some reason. Partly it's because the book spans 40 years in a short storytelling space, and you're still feeling for a five- and twelve- and twenty-year-old girl, while you're watching her life age, get stale, dissolve. And the emptiness that you can clearly perceive throughout the book becomes solid and real so quickly and brutally at the end--I think it hits home with me for some reason. I have no reason to really fear dying alone as much as I do, since I have a big close family and a lot of great friends. But I guess it's a neurosis--or maybe you can just blame Yates. Maybe anyone would have felt this insidious discomfort. He does write squirmers.
Despite this, I really, really recommend this book. Emily is an amazing character, running out of time.