Edith Wharton's novella, Summer (1917), while still very Ethan Frome-ish, is the antithesis of the frosty and wintry characters and landscape of EthanEdith Wharton's novella, Summer (1917), while still very Ethan Frome-ish, is the antithesis of the frosty and wintry characters and landscape of Ethan Frome. Summer is charged with an erotic undercurrent that runs through it. The novella starts in the Spring with young Charity Royall daydreaming in a meadow full of wildflowers, buzzing insects, birds singing, and the sap coursing through the branches of the trees with new leaves unfurling. Her world has just emerged from the cold grip of winter, just as she is emerging from the cocoon of girlhood to becoming a young woman, vibrant and alive.
Charity is hopelessly trapped in a small, quiet and very rural Massachusetts village near the New Hampshire border, living with 'Lawyer' Royall, her guardian. Charity has lived with Lawyer Royall and his late-wife ever since she was a little girl and brought down from the mountain where she had been born to alcoholic mother and a father that was serving prison time. Charity, in an effort to try and better herself, has wangled a job as a part-time librarian at the small musty library in town. Mr. Royall is much older than Charity, and while he does genuinely care about Charity, is definitely a creepy guy in an 'older man, younger woman' kind of way.
The story takes right off though with the arrival of young Lucius Harney, an architect conducting a survey of home styles in rural Massachusetts. Charity shows him around the area as he sketches the houses he's interested in. Naturally, a young woman and man spending time together, day in and day out, things will happen. Charity begins to fall in love with Lucius, and sees him as her way out of her current life and into respectable society. Young Master Harney reciprocates her feelings, and in a shower of glorious fireworks on the Fourth of July, the relationship becomes physical.
As the summer wears on, the young lovers find an old abandoned house where they meet each day and spend time together. Eventually, the unthinkable but inevitable happens and Charity becomes pregnant with Lucius's child. Lucius leaves and returns to the big city and his life--we even learn that he is to be married to 'Anabel Balch'--leaving vague promises to return to Charity.
Wharton, through the eyes and actions of young Charity, guides the reader through what many young women went through then, and still do today, in bearing a child out of wedlock. Charity's world comes crashing down upon her as she realizes that she really has no choices or options left her; and that responsibility in a situation like this weighs very differently for a man than for a woman.
This is a beautifully written story, with wonderfully developed characters in a pastoral setting. I must say that upon my second read of this novella, I was able to more fully experience and appreciate Wharton's honest portrayal of the double-standard placed upon women at all levels in society. Wharton comes back to this theme, time and again, in her novels and short stories. For example, Wharton's brilliant novels The Reef, and The House of Mirth, and her novellas like Bunner Sisters and of course the aforementioned Ethan Frome also look at the double-standard in relation to the consequences of our actions and Society's reaction. Summer is a solid 4 of 5 stars for me....more
As many are probably aware, John O'Hara was an incredibly prolific short story author from late-1920s up until his death in 1970. Nearly 250 of O'HaraAs many are probably aware, John O'Hara was an incredibly prolific short story author from late-1920s up until his death in 1970. Nearly 250 of O'Hara's short stories were published in The New Yorker magazine, making him their most published author, by far. O'Hara's short-story collections were focused on the fictional eastern-Pennsylvania town of Gibbsville, New York City, and then Hollywood, California. Currently, there are published collections of O'Hara's short stories in all three locales, two of which (Hollywood and New York City) are available in Kindle editions.
This review focuses on the collection of short stories that are all associated with Hollywood, the studios, film lots, bedrooms, and the men and women involved in the 'industry.' There were several stories that were truly standouts in this collection in my opinion, including: The Way to Majorca, Malibu from the Sky, Everything Satisfactory, In a Grove (freaky and violent!), Yucca Knolls, and Natica Jackson. What they all share is O'Hara's mastery of taut dialog among characters. As you read one of his stories it is as though you are utterly transported and set down in the room with the characters and listening to the conversation first hand.
These stories very effectively resonate with the film noirish atmosphere of the Los Angeles and Hollywood that I've come to associate and appreciate from writers like Dashiell Hammett and now even James Ellroy. Good stuff, folks, and well worth searching out for a read! Solid 4 of five stars for me....more
This collection of John O'Hara's short stories, most of them appearing in the The New Yorker magazine between the 1930s and 1960s, are all quite good.This collection of John O'Hara's short stories, most of them appearing in the The New Yorker magazine between the 1930s and 1960s, are all quite good. These stories cross-walk across the lives of the people who live in New York City and local environs, and typically are about the people of my parents' generation. Some of these stories are quite short (2-3 pages), and others are much, much longer; but they are all insightful and incisive. The plots tend to revolve people's cares, their hopes, their desires, their loves; in other words, the full range of human life and emotion. O'Hara uses his words carefully and makes the characters come alive on the page.
Some of my favorite stories include "We're Friends Again," "Sportsmanship," and "Pleasure," but quite frankly they were all very good.
This a great edition to my short stories collection. A solid 4.5 stars of 5 for me. ...more
To my mind I am beginning to seriously consider the notion that John O'Hara is the American mid-20th century equivalent to Britain's Anthony TrollopeTo my mind I am beginning to seriously consider the notion that John O'Hara is the American mid-20th century equivalent to Britain's Anthony Trollope of the 19th century. O'Hara was a prolific writer of short-stories, novellas, and novels from the late-1920s up until his death in 1970. He was incredibly adept at portraying all walks of life in the Pennsylvania coal country that he grew up in, or the streets and nightclubs of New York City, as well as on the film lots and studios of Hollywood. His real skill though, is his ability to describe and characterize the relationships between men and women.
O'Hara's A Rage to Live, first published in 1949, is the story of the life of Grace Caldwell Tate. Grace is a woman of great wealth and great beauty, with an incredibly strong connection to the Pennsylvania Dutch landscape where she has lived her entire life. Not to put too fine a point on it, Grace likes sex, and this butts directly up against the rules that society places on the behavior of women in her day and time. There are consequences associated with Grace's choices and actions, and these consequences affect many of the citizens of the little town of Fort Penn where Grace lives with her husband Sidney Tate, and their three children.
A Rage to Live is an enthralling portrait of small-town America just before, during, and following the First World War. This historical view of early 20th century Pennsylvania, as seen through the eyes of Grace and Sidney, was fascinating for me. O'Hara deftly describes the days of horses and wagons yielding to Model-T's, Ford Coupes, and Pierce Arrows; the patriotic fervor and fear of the on-coming World War in Europe; terrible diseases like influenza and "infantile paralysis" (i.e., polio myelitus) that indiscriminately strike rich and poor and old and young; the 'party-line' telephone system; and even the the arcane goings on at the local cocktail and dinner parties. There is even a brief little vignette where an older and mature Grace Caldwell Tate meets and chats up the young 17 or 18-year-old Julian English, long before he has married the pretty Caroline Walker, bought his Cadillac dealership, and later when at a party on a cold Christmas Eve--in a fit of pique--throws his highball and ice into the face of Harry Reilly, precipitating the events characterized in O'Hara's most famous novel, An Appointment in Samarra (1934).
This was a hell of a good book that kept me turning one page after the other. I know that some reviewers have complained that it was too long, but I respectfully disagree, it was just right. In a sense this novel is the bildungsroman of Grace Caldwell, and it just wouldn't have made sense to only partially know Grace. No, the reader needs to know all of Grace, in order to better understand her "Rage to Live."
This novel is John O'Hara's 'A Portrait of a Lady'--Grace Caldwell Tate-and it merits 4.5 stars out of 5, and ends up being a truly classic work of modern American literature; and a novel that I guarantee you that I look forward to rereading again in the future....more
Great, great novel! BUtterfield 8 starts with the mink coat and ends with the mink coat, but the story of young Gloria Wandrous in between is truly soGreat, great novel! BUtterfield 8 starts with the mink coat and ends with the mink coat, but the story of young Gloria Wandrous in between is truly some terrific fiction. In some sense I think that John O'Hara has rewritten Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Although, the protagonist of O'Hara's tale, Miss Wandrous, is not the social or sexual naif that Tess was. Gloria's crime--if it is even such--is that she wants to live her life and be treated by other people as the men in her day are. She's had a rough life from the get go, and is simply trying to make something of herself in New York City at the height of the Great Depression.
John O'Hara, I'm discovering, has quite a knack for really delivering on the characters in his novels and short stories. They are all slightly to severely flawed, but are undoubtedly quite representative of the people that he grew up with, worked with, and saw all around him on the streets of New York City. Things do not just happen in an O'Hara novel, there's always cause and effect, and it is O'Hara's eye on these little things that we do, day in and day out, that makes his stories ring true as we read them. We want to believe in our heart of hearts that young Gloria Wandrous is gonna make it and find her bliss, but then there is always that little bit of niggling doubt. There's always cause and effect, isn't there?
BUtterfield 8 is strong 4.5 stars of 5 for me, and I highly recommend it!...more
Pretty much my entire adult life I have had people at various times tell me what an amazing novel this is to read. In fact, it may have been my fatherPretty much my entire adult life I have had people at various times tell me what an amazing novel this is to read. In fact, it may have been my father who first told me about this book, and of course I promptly ignored his recommendation. Well, here I am, just a few months shy of turning 60 years old, and I have recently discovered the short stories and novels of John O'Hara.
Appointment in Samarra is really not much more than a longish novella, but every word, every sentence and every paragraph is so brilliantly assembled on the page. The plot takes place in late-December 1930, over essentially a 36 hour time-frame in the fictional small Pennsylvania town of 'Gibbsville' during the Christmas holidays.
Julian English and his lovely wife, Caroline, are young thirty-somethings who have everything in front of them. They love each other, have great sex together, are well off (he owns the local Cadillac dealership), belong to all of the right social groups, have scads of friends, drink the best booze (it is Prohibition, don't you know) and are always invited to all of the best parties. So, what can go wrong with this picture?
At his country club's Christmas Eve party, Julian--in a fit of pique--tosses his scotch-on-the-rocks in the face of Harry Reilly, a local Irish-American businessman. At that moment everything about Julian and Caroline's life begins to unravel and spiral out of control. Saying "...out of control" is perhaps not entirely correct though. Julian's actions precipitated consequences, but each of them were indeed manageable had he done or said the right things. But if you don't do the right things, or say the right words, one always finds oneself in a much more precarious and tenuous position, and the odds of things ending badly greatly increase. Within 36 hours, or so, we see what happens to a man who is determined to jump off the 'cliff of Life.' It ain't pretty, folks, it ain't pretty.
This is a classic with a message that it is timeless, and one that we should consider in our own lives. Our actions, thoughts, words, and deeds do matter, and there are consequences associated with everything that we do or say. Be a good person, love others, and most importantly love yourself too.
Appointment in Samarra is a great American novel, and one that I unhesitatingly recommend. A solid 4.5 stars of 5....more
I won't rate this novel as I did not finish it, and I do not plan to. I read more than half of the book and it was simply terrible, terrible, terribleI won't rate this novel as I did not finish it, and I do not plan to. I read more than half of the book and it was simply terrible, terrible, terrible. Maybe Weir's science is good, it seemed okay to me, but he sure can't craft a plot that works worth a damn. It is too bad that I spent whatever it was I spent to download this to my Kindle...I wonder if I can electronically 'donate' it to my local library? Naw, then some other poor schmuck might be tempted to try it. I think I'll delete it from my e-reader and let it float around in the ether until it reaches Mars.
Sorry, folks, this novel just didn't do anything for me. And I'm quite sure I'll catch hell from some quarters for my opinion....more
Solid 4.5 stars of 5! These modern southern gothic authors somehow just 'click' for me, and William Gay is just such an author. I have read everythingSolid 4.5 stars of 5! These modern southern gothic authors somehow just 'click' for me, and William Gay is just such an author. I have read everything of his that I can find, and love it all....more