'Erotic Visions'

From The Paris Review
Every year around the holidays, I try to fill in one of the gaps in my knowledge of the canon. When you’re revisiting classics, I’ve found, it’s always good to seek out the ones that people hated when they were first published—so I took up O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra, which Sinclair Lewis called “nothing but infantilism—the erotic visions of a hobbledehoy behind the barn.” And what visions they are! Sex and class are O’Hara’s great subjects, and in Appointment—wherein a rich, high-society guy ruins himself for no good reason, really, except that the straitjacket of Depression-era life demands it—he treats them with a candor that most novelists still can’t muster eighty years later. He’s known, rightly, for his dialogue, but there’s a kind of O’Hara sentence, precise but faintly ostentatious, that sounds utterly American to me. “The festive board now groaned under the Baked Alaska,” for instance. Or: “Frank Gorman, Georgetown, and Dwight Ross, Yale, had fought, cried, and kissed after an argument about what the team Gorman had not made would have done to the team Ross was substitute halfback on.” —Dan Piepenbring

AGM Delayed

Due to scheduling conflicts we are delaying the January Society meeting.  Current thinking is to hold an event closer to O'Hara's death date in April.

If you are considering attending, please share weekend dates in the spring that work best for you, along with suggestions for a location (Philadelphia, New York, and Princeton have been our most frequent meeting spots) and any agenda items, topics or conversation starters that you think we should cover.

January AGM Update

The January meeting of the John O’Hara Society is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, 1/17, in Philadelphia, PA. More details to follow.  If you plan to attend, please let us know if your preference is to hold the meeting at lunch or dinner time.

John O'Hara: Strange Characters

O'HARA'S NOVELS RE-EXAMINED
By William Vollman
The Baffler

Books Discussed
John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra (New York: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2013; first published 1934).
John O’Hara, BUtterfield 8 (New York: Penguin Classics, 2013; first published 1935).
John O’Hara, Ten North Frederick (New York: Penguin Classics, 2014; first published 1955).
John O’Hara, The New York Stories (New York: Penguin Classics, 2013; first published 1932–1966).

John O’Hara’s themes are alcoholism, infidelity, rape, perversion, child molestation, the yearning for power and financial security (many who knew the author believed this to be his own basic preoccupation), the instability of love and passion, the effects of economic substructures on the superstructures of private life (in method, if certainly not in ideology, he resembles a Marxist), boardroom and statehouse politics, and the secret corruptions of families.

Armistice Day - Port Johnson, Pennsylvania - November 11, 1918

   The hour of eleven had been designated by the chief burgess as a suitable, appropriate time for a gathering of borough officials, prominent business men, the clergy, representatives of patriotic organizations, and war casualties already home. The chosen place was around the new flagpole in front of the borough hall, where there was a large signboard on which was painted a list, as nearly as complete as could be, of the names of the Port Johnson men and women in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, and the two men who had gone to serve with the American Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. There was no way to announce the ceremony in such a short time as there would have been twenty years later when Port Johnson had its own radio station, but the Port Johnson Silver Cornet Band had been notified and its music would attract citizens.
   At ten-thirty the members of the band, most of them in uniform but a few wearing only jacket and cap above their work pants, took their places at one side of the flagpole and began playing a medley of recent and old tunes: "Where Do We Go From Here, Boys?"; "The Old Grey Mare"; "Over There"; "Keep the Home Fires Burning"; "K-K-K-Katy"; "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"; "Tenting Tonight"; "Oui, Oui, Marie": "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning"; "The Rose of No Man's Land"; and a reprise of "Over There," after which the short concert was temporary halted to make way for oratory.
   It was, as Chief Brophy had said, a good-natured crowd. It was, in fact, unique for Port Johnson as all the other crowds in all the other towns of the nation were unique: it was happy and gay, universally friendly, but unlike any of the usual celebrating crowds - New Year's Eve, firemen's conventions, alumni reunions, family picnics - it was always ready to change from gayety to an unforced solemnity . . . on that morning in 1918 the citizens joined together in victory and release, united by joy and grateful enough to be willing to listen to words of prayer and earnest consideration of sterner ideals. They dropped their heads when told to do so, they were respectful to the other fellow's preacher, they applauded the names of Wilson and Pershing and Foch . . . and laughed with scorn but without the recent loathing at the mentions of Kaiser Bill.
   With the playing of "America" the formal ceremonies were concluded and the band then broke into a brisk "Old Grey Mare" and marched away . . .
____


From the Terrace (1958)


Submitted by Robert G. Saliba

O'Hara UnFriends Gill

LOA Befriends Pal Joey
By JAMES MacDONALD
Exeter, England
The Library of America has just published John O'Hara's libretto for Pal Joey in a two-volume collection called American Musicals, edited by Laurence Maslon.
 
I'm delighted, having waited for it for more than fifty years. I was afraid Wilie O'Hara Dalaney, O'Hara's daughter, was going to give the rights to the Richard Greenberg rewrite; but it's the real thing, all right. It also marks O'Hara's first appearance in LOA.

Incidentally, I read John Updike's New Yorker review of The Art of Burning Bridges. A terrific corrective of O'Hara's taciturn image, as well as of his feud with Brendan Gill. Apparently the break with the magazine had little to do with Gill's A Rage to Live review; O'Hara asked to be paid for stories the magazine rejected.
 
Mr. New Yorker
By RICHARD CARREÑO
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Brendan Gill was ten years younger than O'Hara, but his level of production -- sheer wattage in words contributed to The New Yorker -- probably exceeded John O'Hara's output. Gill wrote fiction, drama, film, and architecture reviews, comment, and profiles. Short of Harold Ross and William Shawn, Gill was 'Mr. New Yorker.' That distinction wasn't lost on O'Hara; it was probably enough to put him on O'Hara's very long enemies list.

Putting O'Hara's enmity over the top was Gill's negative of review in The New Yorker of O'Hara's blockbusterA Rage to Live. Their relationship was already testy. Gill wore his Irish gently. O'Hara did not. Gill's Yale education and Scull & Bones membership came to him naturally. O'Hara was always striving for Ivy-covered totems and Establishment acceptance.

From the short story "The Locomobile." (1963)

Shortly after getting out of the army in 1919, George Denison gave - gave - his mother's Locomobile limousine to Arthur Gow, who had been the lady's chauffeur. The car was a beauty, purer in line than the Pierce-Arrows and Packards that were generally chosen by women like Mrs. Denison. It was painted Brewster green, and it was the only one of its kind in the county. It had less than 15,000 miles on the odometer, six new Pennsylvania Vacuum cups to replace the original tires, and it would have fetched five thousand dollars in a trade-in if George Denison had wanted to bargain. But his mother had neglected to mention Arthur Gow in her will - she had never got around to it in the years since the will had been drawn up - and George Denison wanted to do something for Arthur.

Posted by Robert Saliba

Grace Tate's First Appearance

July 4, 1917.  The Old Caldwell Place. Fort Penn, Pennsylvania.

   The woman beside him on the steps was in a blue-and-white muslin Red Cross canteen uniform. She was slightly taller than the fashion of the day and would have been still taller if she had not been wearing "sensible" heels. At first she seemed to be achieving chic without departing from strict uniform, and with no jewelry but a plain gold wedding band and a Tiffany-setting engagement ring, but on her wrist was a man's watch chain, wrapped twice around and with a small collegiate charm dangling from it, and under the band of her nurse cap her widow's peak was showing, and it directed attention down to her black-brown eyes. She was thirty-four years old . . .

From A Rage to Live (1949).

Sidney Tate

July 4, 1917 - The Caldwell Farm, Fort Penn, Pa:

At the crouching sound of the wheels on the gravel, the double screen-door was opened and a man and a woman waited for the Governor and his lady.

   The man was almost completely bald, darkly tanned and with large, strong teeth. He was slender, sparsely built, and he appeared to be shorter than he was. He was wearing a Norfolk jacket, white flannels, white buckskins (now grass-stained), a soft white shirt with a gold safety-pin in the collar and a striped necktie. A white linen handkerchief was tucked in the panel of his jacket, and as the car came to a stop he knocked his pipe empty and from habit rubbed the warm bowl on the side of his nose before dropping the pipe in his pocket. He was forty, a friendly, unsuspicious man, accustomed to being liked. He had a long history of regular meals, none ever missed except by choice, and of good digestion and fifteen thousand baths.

From A Rage to Live (1949).

Posted by Robert Saliba

Another July 4th

   It rained lightly on the morning of Wednesday, July 4, 1917, and the Festival Committee met to decide whether to postpone the Festival until the following Saturday. It was argued that Saturday was a better day than Wednesday, even if Wednesday did happen to be the Fourth. It was also argued by some of the Fort Penn businessmen that if the Festival was postponed until Saturday the merchants would be losing two and a half days that week: Wednesday, the Fourth; the regular Thursday half holiday which the Merchants Association had decreed upon themselves; and now Saturday.

   "The question is," said one committee member, "are we running this thing for the merchants or for the Red Cross? . . . "

  From A Rage to Live (1949)