"Imagine Kissing Pete." The New Yorker. Sermons and Soda Water. Gibbsville, PA.

May 28, 1960: Princeton University commencement.

The September 17, 1960 issue of The New Yorker marked John O'Hara's return to the magazine after an eleven year absence. Almost the entire issue was devoted to the masterpiece short story-novella "Imagine Kissing Pete," and here's the opening sentence, told by Jim Malloy: "To those who knew the bride and groom, the marriage of Bobbie Hammersmith and Pete McCrea was the surprise of the year."

After their 1929 marriage it was all downhill for this Gibbsville couple. There was the Crash in October, then the Great Depression, World War Two and its aftermath. The story vividly describes two well-born miserable young people skidding right down the socio-economic ladder.

Yet the story ends on a bright note, thanks to their son Angus:

   In 1960, then, I saw Pete and Bobbie again. They invited me, of all their old friends, to go with them to the Princeton commencement. Angus McCrea, Junior, led his class, was awarded the mathematics prize, the physics prize, the Eubank prize for scholarship, and some other honors that I am sure are listed in the program. I could not read the program because I was crying most of the time. Pete would lean forward in his chair, listening to the things that were being said about his son, but in an attitude that would have been more suitable to a man who was listening to a pronouncement of sentence. Bobbie sat erect and smiling, but every once in a while I could hear her whisper, "Oh, God. Oh, God."
   There, I guess, is our happy ending.

No comments: