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Sermons and Soda-Water

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  149 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Paperback, 110 pages
Published October 1st 1986 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1960)
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O'Hara hit the 1960 bestseller list twice. This collection of three novellas was #10 and was originally released as a boxed set of three volumes. (I found the three volumes at my local library without the box.) I liked these novellas better than any of his novels so far. He curbed his wordiness and made excellent use of his skill with dialogue. They each went down like eating ice cream.

Some male friends from O'Hara's usual haunt of Gibbsville, PA, turn up in each novella so you get a picture of
Jennifer Barbee
Sep 16, 2008 Jennifer Barbee rated it it was amazing
This book is actually made up of three novellas. I bought a nice hard back set of the three at a used bookstore some time ago, and I have re-read the series two more times since the first. I think O'Hara's period with the Gibbsville, PA characters is by far his strongest work, and though APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA might be more famous, I found this collection to be more compelling. There is something sweet and sad in O'Hara's work, where there is always some kind of odd nobility in the process of fa ...more
Mar 16, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Is anyone more adept than John O'Hara at writing eminently readable, character-driven stories with great dialogue? Probably, but he's got to be near the top of that list--by his own estimation, at any rate! But I agree with him, and Sermons and Soda-Water is compelling evidence to support the contention. The three novellas that comprise this collection* are narrated by Jim Malloy, a writer who is for the most part reminiscing about events from his past.

The first story, "The Girl on the Baggage
Apr 15, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
Frankly, I don't like these characters or the society they inhabit, but right now I just want to celebrate this author's dialog. I've never seen better. It's so suggestive of a much broader scene. Like:
Mary Day turned to me. “Ask me whether he’s had his appendix out? The answer is yes. And have you had yours out, Mr. Mallory?”

“You’re not going to find out as easily as that.”

“Well said, Jim,” said Charley.

“Has Charlotte Sears had hers out?” said Mary Day. “Why, look at him! He’s blushing! I took
Adele Goetz
Feb 12, 2009 Adele Goetz rated it it was ok
I read this book years ago, but I thought reading it again now would be interesting given that some of the stories take place after the stock market crash of 1929. Turns out, reading about bankers losing all their money was kind of a downer... My biggest problem with all of the stories is that O'Hara's characters seem to go years without seeing each other or speaking to each other, but when they do finally reunite they spill all their secrets to each other. Even in this era of internet overshari ...more
Lonnie Ellingson
Apr 15, 2013 Lonnie Ellingson rated it it was amazing
A good read and a classic author.

The author of Butterfield 8 and From The Terrace comes three brilliant short novels with his special view of American life, sharpened by the passionate desires and raw intimacies that make up the relationships between men and women in our time.

John O'Hara was as acclaimed for his grimly realistic short stories as he was for his novels. Set mainly in the Pennsylvania coal country where he grew up, his stories--and his fiction in general--were about striving, upwar
Tom Grammer
Nov 07, 2008 Tom Grammer rated it liked it
John O'Hara hailed from Schuylkill County, PA, which is my mother's home region, and he wrote extensively about the area although he thinly disguised the names of the various towns (Pottsville was Gibbsville, Schuylkill Haven became Swedish Haven, etc.). The stories in this collection dealt with people who grew up together, some of whom moved away, and the impact of class and money on their experiences, a theme O'Hara apparently returned to repeatedly.
Fred Andersen
Oct 30, 2011 Fred Andersen rated it really liked it
John O'Hara hasn't gotten a lot of love from critics in the last ten...thirty...fifty years. And some of his later jaded suburbanite stuff is pretty intolerable. But this book, which came out in the early 1960s, is all about New York and small-town Pennsylvania in the twenties and thirties. So I think O'Hara is going back to his youth with the wisdom and sophistication of someone who knows how it all turned out. And even at his worst, JOH is criminally readable.
Eunji Kim
Jul 08, 2007 Eunji Kim rated it liked it
"let us have wine & women, mirth & laughter,
Sermons & soda water the day after."
Lord Byron

(after i read the book, discovered that this cat, lord byron, ain't so bad, after all)

the entire series of stories he was related to the gentry and/or denizens of Gibbsville, PA are pretty good....
Paul Wilner
Nov 24, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
"let us have wine and women, beer and water/sermons and soda water the day after.'' (rough quote). o'hara channeling byron (odd literary couple). great stuff, tho. o'hara before he got self-conscious; perenially underrated (as he wd ahve been the first to note)
Della Scott
Jan 14, 2013 Della Scott rated it liked it
I registered a book at!
Jan 08, 2017 Angelika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid-century writer revisits his youth to craft character driven stories about seminal relationships.
Jun 23, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed these three volumes for their well-crafted wittiness, with enough weight to make them interesting.
Sue Guthrie
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Dec 13, 2009
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Michael Zadoorian
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Apr 09, 2009
Michael Sherwood
Michael Sherwood rated it it was amazing
Nov 26, 2013
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Aug 06, 2011
Jim C
Jim C rated it it was amazing
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John Henry O'Hara was an American writer born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He initially became known for his short stories and later became a best-selling novelist whose works include Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8. He was particularly known for an uncannily accurate ear for dialogue. O'Hara was a keen observer of social status and class differences, and wrote frequently about the social ...more
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