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                                                      His Third Novel

On March 17, 1938 Harcourt, Brace published John O'Hara's third novel, Hope of Heaven, the product of his one to two year experience as a Hollywood writer. The narrator is Jim Malloy. The others include his young and beautiful girl friend, Peggy Henderson, her college-student brother, her father, and a con-artist from The Region. The book is short; it ends with an accidental killing, the break-up of the affair with Peggy, and Jim's return to New York.

O'Hara thought this was " ... The book I worked hardest on, worked longest on, and feel was the best written ... "* However, the critics did not agree. It was not well-received. I don't think this novel has the first-rate quality of Appointment in Samarra (1930) and BUtterfield 8 (1935), but others disagree.

John O'Hara wrote his trilogy over a four year period, 1934-1938. His fourth novel, A Rage to Live, was not to be published until 1949. In the intervening eleven years there were to be more New Yorker stories, the Pal Joey success, and World War II.

*August 4, 1941 issue of Newsweek, quoted in Matthew Bruccoli, The O'Hara Concern, page 148.

                                                 The Best Laid Plans

On March 17, 1945 the short story "War Aims" was published in The New Yorker. Hellbox.

On a carrier in the South Pacific during the War fighter pilot Forrest describes to Damage Control officer Delaney his elaborate post-war plans for career, marriage, family, home. Suddenly there's an abrupt end to the story with the announcement that the warship's under torpedo attack.



Steven Goldleaf said...

I'm one of those who think HOPE OF HEAVEN is a success. O'Hara paints a wonderfully detailed portrait of Hollywood in the late 1930s, apparently down to a not-very-thinly disguised cameo of novelist Nathanael West as "Herbert," a would-be suitor of "Peggy Henderson," who is also closely based on a real-life salesgirl in a real-life Hollywood bookstore. Rumor has it that O'Hara portrayed these two so accurately and so scathingly that friends of theirs were hurt that their unattractive traits were on public display in a novel. Not the first nor the last time that O'Hara's accuracy would get him in hot water.

RGK said...

I too enjoy HOPE OF HEAVEN, although I have not revisited it for a long time. It's time to re-read it.