Reader Question

Dear Friends,
I'm attempting to read and collect all John O'hara stories. The Story:
"Name in the Book",
Listed by Bruccoli in the Pittsburgh O'Hara Bibliography as Short Story # C182
From Good Houskeeping CXIX December 1944 Pages 172-173
This is nowhere that I can find.
Was it ever reproduced in a collection?
Does any member have this story of which I could purchase a copy?
Any help would be appreciated.
Many Thanks,
Norman Dolph


Help!  I've recently come in possession of a 1942 letter from O'Hara to Henry Morgan.  O'Hara signs off "cigar store"'. What is that in reference to?
Appreciate a response to the query which has many of us puzzled.
Thank you for your time.
George Madison



The novellas represent no change in Mr O'Hara's method. He normally puts everything into a novel, including the kitchen sink complete with stopped drain, plumber, and plumber's mate, and does not once but four or five times per book. The novella form has merely limited the author in a statistical way; one kitchen sink is all he can fit into his predetermined space....

-- The Atlantic Monthly
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When O'Hara is good he is very, very good; when he is bad he iswriting for exercise in tedium.

--The New York Herald Tribune 
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One might suggest...that the inhabitants of hell be condemned to an eternity reading stories behind the headlines in American tabloids.... John O'Hara's new collection of short stories brings the whole realm uncomfortably close. It is a punishment to read....

-- Christian Science Monitor
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O'Hara is Best ...

By Frank Wilson

Author John O'Hara was born a century ago in Pottsville . His father was a physician, and O'Hara's upbringing was comfortably middle-class. But Pottsville society in those days - when coal was still king - was almost feudally structured. The wealthy Protestant iron and coal barons lived in mansions higher and higher up along one side of Mahantongo Street. The O'Haras lived more modestly, halfway up the other side.

O'Hara's wish to attend an Ivy League school, preferably Yale, was thwarted by his father's death. O'Hara took a job on the local newspaper, but soon left for New York City.

It cannot be said that he never looked back. It could rather be said that he only looked back. Pottsville - which he renamed Gibbsville in his stories and novels - had given birth to the dreams and, above all, the resentments that fueled his fiction. In that fiction, many of Pottsville 's good citizens recognized themselves or their neighbors, and a good deal of the town's dirty laundry. There may be markers all over Pottsville now, so visitors can take a John O'Hara walk, but during his lifetime, town and townspeople had little time for him.

Critics haven't had much time for him either. Among his contemporaries, that may have been because they knew him. He was, by all accounts, a most unpleasant man: vain, touchy and quarrelsome. He thought he deserved the big prizes, the Nobel as well as the Pulitzer. He did win the National Book Award (for Ten North Frederick).

He made his name as a writer of short stories, mostly for The New Yorker, and his first novel, Appointment in Samarra, which many still consider his best, is really a novella. Fictionally, O'Hara was a natural sprinter, not a marathoner, but he could make himself go the distance and was convinced that fame, fortune and, above all, literary stature could be his only if he wrote novels that ran on for hundreds of pages.

Ten North Frederick, From the Terrace and the like - soap-opera novels combining solid reportage, O'Hara's trademark spot-on dialogue, and sex that seemed risqué in the '50s but looked passé once Tropic of Cancer became legal - pleased the public immensely, becoming blockbuster best-sellers and enabling their author to continue living the life of a country squire in Princeton.

He might have won the prizes and the critical applause had he stuck to what he was best at. He could report, but he couldn't invent, and he had little eye for the telling detail. What he did have was a flawless ear for the way Americans talk and for how much people reveal not just by what they say, but by the precise way they say it. He is at his best when, having set the scene with minimal ado, he lets his characters gossip away.

In 1960, at age 55, O'Hara published a trio of novellas - "The Girl on the Baggage Truck," "Imagine Kissing Pete," and "We're Friends Again" - under the title Sermons and Soda-Water (taken from Byron's Don Juan: "Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter, / Sermons and soda-water the day after"). Here, all of O'Hara's literary virtues, and none of his shortcomings, are on display. It is this book, not Appointment in Samarra, by which his work as a whole deserves to be judged.

In "The Girl on the Baggage Truck," Jim Malloy, O'Hara's fictional alter ego, is working for the publicity department of a Hollywood film studio and is squiring one of its stars around New York. The star is involved with a mysterious tycoon who claims to have been born in Gibbsville. The star was also once involved with wealthy aristocrat Junior Williamson, and the pivotal scene in the story takes place at a party on Williamson's estate, to which the star has been invited by Williamson's wife, Polly.

Polly is a cousin of Charley Ellis, who is one of Malloy's best friends, a socialite who has abandoned his ambition to write and joined his father's brokerage firm. Ellis is in love with his cousin, but she is simply fond of him. "We're Friends Again" tells of how Charley's eventual marriage and his friendship with Polly tie in and play out.

Gibbsville figures only peripherally in the first story and not at all in the third, but the second story is set there, making it the centerpiece in more than one sense. Bobbie Hammersmith, the girl all the boys dreamed of, is set to marry a well-bred New Englander, but changes her mind. A few weeks later, she's engaged to Angus "Pete" McCrea, the hometown crowd's all-time dork.

The marriage turns sour fast. Pete's and Bobbie's families go broke in the Depression, and Pete becomes a monster as well as a loser. But the marriage survives, and two children are born. How it survives and why is what the story is about, and in its 112 pages O'Hara writes with a depth, feeling and insight often missing from his outsize potboilers.

O'Hara was much younger than I am when he wrote Sermons and Soda-Water, but his sensibility was already that of someone much older. "A writer belongs to his time," Malloy muses in "We're Friends Again," "and mine is past. In the days or years that remain to me, I shall entertain myself in contemplation of my time and be fascinated by the way things tie up, one with another. "

Critics and scholars might want to pay another visit to O'Hara's Gibbsville. It may not be as mythic as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha, but its proportions are more recognizably human.

Frank Wilson is the former book editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. This article was written in 2005.



Hello. My name is Joshua Prager. I’m a journalist in New York City. I write for Vanity Fair and the New York Times and other publications. (You can see my work at 
I wanted to let you know of a book of mine that just came out with a connection to O’Hara. It is titled 100 YEARS and is a list of passages (from novels and poems mainly) about every age from birth to one hundred. Together, they lay out the arc of a human life. 
Anyway, I wondered if you’d be so kind as to alert your members to it. Age fifty-nine in the book is given over to O'Hara. 
Thank you so much. 
ps: If you think anyone might want a copy, you can send them here. 
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Available in September

John O’Hara: Stories

By John O’Hara
Edited by Charles McGrath

Part of The Library of America

Category: Literary Fiction

Best Seller
John O'Hara: Stories by John O'Hara
Hardcover $40.00
Sep 13, 2016 | 880 Pages
  • Hardcover $40.00
    Sep 13, 2016 | 880 Pages  
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A Spanish writer and translator, David Paradela, needs help in 'translating' these idiomatic bits in the following O'Hara stories. If you can assist in 'translating,' please send your responses to me at Many thanks, Richard.
The Girl from California
“Why don’t you knock a little sense into him?” (The New Yorker, May 27, 1961, p. 37)
Vince and his father are talking about Vince’s brother, Pat. It’s my understanding that the references to the Army getting him have something to do with the Vietnam War, but I don’t exactly know why the father should knock a little sense into him: is it because he wants or because he doesn’t want to serve?
“It sounds like you ought to use it cooking” (The New Yorker, May 27, 1961, p. 41)
Talking about Montana, Karen says that the name Missoula “sounds like you ought to use it cooking”. I understand she says so because she finds the name funny, but I feel like I’m missing some hidden reference: some kind of cooking ingredient, product, label, utensil…?

Rich Lifestyles

Frank Zachary
John O'Hara, Editor
Frank Zachary, the legendary editor and art director of Holiday magazine and Town & Country, who died earlier this month, once had another party who was equally --if not more -- interested in the lifestyles of the rich: John O'Hara.
According to The New York Times obit (14 June) by Robert D. McFadden, 'After graduating from high school in Rankin, Pa., [Zachary] got a job with the weekly Pittsburgh Bulletin Index as a reporter-photographer. In 1933, his editor briefly was John O'Hara, who soon quit to finish is first novel "Appointment in Samarra." Using Mr. O'Hara's contacts in New York, Mr. Zachary became a part-time Pittsburgh correspondent for Time, Life and Fortune magazines.'