"The Assistant" and "The Assembly"


On July 3, 1967, publication of "The Assistant." The New Yorker. Waiting for Winter. John O'Hara's New York Stories (to be published in August).

Maggie Muldoon is an aging vocalist whose "assistant" is the drink she's always holding. At a party she has an extensive conversation with James Rhodes. They go back to her apartment. Surprise ending. Here's some writing uncharacteristic of John O'Hara (emphasis mine):

"Now she reached out and with the skill of a blind person she took a cigarette out of a china box . . . sometimes that first flame lighting that first cigarette could be as blinding as the bomb on Nagasaki . . . "
The Assembly was a large society gathering held twice a year in Gibbsville on New Year's Eve and July 3rd. In June 1926 Julian English invited Caroline Walker to go with him to the Assembly. Their romance culminated later that year in their marriage. From Appointment in Samarra:

They dodged being in love at first, and because they always had been friends, his seeing her increasingly more frequently did not become perceptible until he asked her to go with him to the July 3 Assembly. You asked a girl at least a month in advance for the Assemblies, and you asked the girl you liked best. It was the only one he ever freely had asked her to; she knew his mother told him to ask her to the very first one. The Assembly was not just another dance, and in the time between her accepting and the night of the dance they both were conscious of it. A girl gave preference in dates to the man who was asking her to the Assembly.

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