‘Liars In Love’ by Richard Yates

Yates, Richard 1982

Liars In Love by Richard Yates, 1981

The magic trick:

A great title

I love the title of this story. It’s catchy and memorable like a great pop song title. It’s also instructive as to what Yates is saying in the story.

Christine lies. We see that. Warren is very obviously concerned about her lies. We don’t any help in seeing that. With the title’s guidance, though, the reader is prompted to look further and find the lies in the other characters’ actions as well. Warren and Carol lie to their daughter, to Carol’s aunt Judith. Warren lies to Christine about his feelings and intentions. Much of the surface happiness in Grace and Alfred’s apartment is based on lies, half-truths, and hidden feelings. Everyone lies.

Tellingly, when the characters in the story communicate honestly, things play out far better than they anticipated. Yates grants them happy endings only when they stop lying. The theme permeates damn near every sentence of the story, and the title keeps the reader’s focus on this idea. And that’s quite a trick on Yates’s part.

The selection:

“Know what I like most about you, Warren?” she asked very late in their third or fourth night together. “Know what I really love about you? It’s that I feel I can trust you. All my life, that’s all I ever wanted: somebody to trust. And you see I keep making mistakes and making mistakes because I trust people who turn out to be – “

“Shh, shh,” he said, “it’s OK, baby. Let’s just sleep now.”