Two Stories


On October 15, 1932, publication of "Profiles: Of Thee I Sing." The New Yorker. The Doctor's Son and Other Stories.

Grayce is a New York chorus girl from Maspeth, Queens:

   "There is nothing about her, except her height and her figure, which separates her from possibly a thousand other girls who are eligible for the two hundred available jobs for chorus girls in the good productions . . . She is twenty-four years old, and looks that; no more, no less. She is tall for a girl; five feet seven . . . Grayce wasn't as worried as some of the kids, because she has a little money in the bank from a great big mad love affair with a certain producer . . . She likes parties, and drinks anything, but is in no danger of being a dipsomaniac . . . Grayce insists she means it when she says she wants to get married and have children. She says she would like to have ten children if her husband could afford it. She would like them all to be boys, because boys are easier to handle, and they're not sneaks like girls . . . Whatever happens to Grayce probably won't be important, even to herself. It is hard to imagine her bewailing her fate, unless she would marry a man who would beat her. But it is just as hard to imagine a man who would want to do that."

On November 23, 1961, publication of "The Compliment." Assembly.

When he was an eighteen-year old freshman at Cornell in 1916, he wrote a letter to Hazel Dobson. Now a wealthy sixty-two year old New Yorker, he tells his wife, "I would have married her in a minute when I was twenty-one or -two, but she had other fish to fry."

Hazel Dobson, now Hazel Chandler, is coming to visit and show George the letter. Since George has not returned from work, she meets Mrs. Remsen, and they talk. "I wasn't in love with George, although I considered him a very dear friend."

It appears George tried to discourage Hazel from marrying the man she did, and he was right, as he went to prison for embezzlement, forcing Hazel to scrape for a living. The "compliment" is  Mrs. Remsen thanking Hazel for staying away from George " . . . all these years."

Good analysis by Steven Goldleaf in John O'Hara - A Study of the Short Fiction, page 81.

Note: George and Hazel's relationship was "G" rated. They never had an affair.

1 comment:

Steven Goldleaf said...

An odd fact about "Of Thee I Sing" is that the New Yorker lists this piece as "non-fiction," yet O'Hara published it in a book of short stories, meaning that the dividing line between "reportage" and "fiction" is less bright a line than we suppose it is.