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 in 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 is the story of the life of Grace Caldwell Tate. Grace is a woman of great wealth and great beauty, and 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 then 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 '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....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
Whew! Zola's Madeleine Ferat is the story of an obsessive and jealous love with horrifyingly tragic consequences. One thing I am learning about the fiWhew! Zola's Madeleine Ferat is the story of an obsessive and jealous love with horrifyingly tragic consequences. One thing I am learning about the fiction of Emile Zola is that he is the master of psychological drama and horror. Many authors are quite effective at describing the murder of one character by another, but Zola takes his reader deep into the twisted dark recesses within the human mind of his characters and allows the reader to observe the 'seeds of horror' as they are first planted, nurtured, and then as they burst darkly forth upon the novel's pages.
The relationship of Guillaume and Madeleine starts off well enough. Young man meets young woman, cohabitate for a period of time, inherit money and villa from father, get married, have a child--couldn't get any better, right? Not so fast my friend, not so fast. Madeleine is really, all in all, a pretty nice young woman who is becoming comfortable in her own skin and likes to have a good time. After she marries Guillaume she makes a horrific mistake--she tells her new husband about a sexual relationship she had with a man before she met her husband. Well, it turns out that this man was her husband's very best friend. Awkward!
I'm not at all sure that Zola's Madeleine Ferat could have been published in 1868 in either England or the United States. This is a racy novel that doesn't shy away from human sexuality and an incredibly realistic portrayal of the human emotions that lead the couple to spiral inexorably downward from the happy heights of marital bliss to the depths of outright madness and dark despair. This is a difficult and painful novel to read at times, but one that compels the reader to carry on, if only to see if Madeleine and Guillaume can pull out of the death spiral. But it is Zola after all.
Other authors in this period dealt with this sort of co-dependent and mutually assured self-destruction, including Thomas Hardy (Tess of the d'Urbervilles), or Anthony Trollope (He Knew He was Right), but for Zola it seems to be a prominent theme, at least in his early works of fiction.
This gets a solid 4 of 5 stars from me. Well worth reading....more
This is a helluva good story! This borders on Victor Hugo, it is rollicking, adventurous, and a real stem-winder from start to finish. There are villaThis is a helluva good story! This borders on Victor Hugo, it is rollicking, adventurous, and a real stem-winder from start to finish. There are villains, there are some really good characters, and there is some awesome history about France in the late-1840s. We have an elopement, pregnancy, a fortune up for grabs, espionage, and a revolution on the streets of Marseille. This is an early Zola and very much worthwhile reading. Now it is on to "Therese Raquin."...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