Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Literary Brawler: John O'Hara

By Levi Asher on Thursday, June 11, 2009 01:18 am


The author of the remarkable essay I posted here yesterday about the state of literary criticism in 1962 was John O'Hara, and it appeared as the introduction to his short story collection The Cape Cod Lighter, published by Random House in 1962.

John O'Hara was an extremely popular and widely loved novelist through much of the 20th century, though his popularity with readers and his irascibly anti-fashionable attitude caused him to suffer much critical bashing during his later decades. Martha Conway once wrote of the "New York Johns" -- O'Hara, Cheever and Updike, all of them smug, sexist, suburban and irritatingly male. Of the three, John Updike was probably the most brilliant, but O'Hara had the wickedest sense of humor (and tragedy).

His 1934 novel Appointment In Samarra (the title blacked out in yesterday's posting) is a great entry point if you'd like to discover O'Hara, though his later short stories (like "Pat Collins", which is in The Cape Cod Lighter) prove how well his talent endured. In his early years, O'Hara wrote the New Yorker character sketches that became the show Pal Joey.

I obtained my John O'Hara book collection from my Grandma Jeanette when she died, which gives you an idea when he was last in style.

These lines in the essay above:

The exciting word is getting around that not only the novel, but all fiction, must go. Not go-go-go, just go.

... are directed at postmodern critics from Time and Newsweek, but contain a friendly side-swipe at Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation writers, who were all the rage in 1962.

Now, as somebody asked yesterday: who were Monk Lovechild and Tootsie Washburn?
4 Responses to "Literary Brawler: John O'Hara"

by Duncan Brown on

Wild guess, Theolonius and Dustin.

by dlt on

Delmore Schwartz's In Dreams Begin Resposibilites is as good as anything by John O'Hara, if not better, including Hellbox

by Steve Plonk on

No, I say that fiction must stayyy! It's outstanding and more than okay. Hey, it should be Theolonius Monk and Dustin Hoffman. Hey, don't forget Lenny Bruce.

by Steve Plonk on

Once again, addendum, Mod Fiction rocks!

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