About John O’Hara: Four Novels of the 1930s (LOA #313)
In one volume, four novels by “the real Fitzgerald”: scintillating, sexually frank tales of the desperate pursuit of pleasure and status in Jazz Age America.
The early novels of John O’Hara, like those of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, dramatize the longings and dashed hopes of a lost generation, seduced and betrayed by the glittering temptations of the modern age. Appointment in Samarra (1934), O’Hara’s brilliant debut, is a briskly paced story of one man’s self-sabotage and a tour de force of closely observed, unsparing social portraiture. The life of the car dealer Julian English unravels with stunning swiftness after he throws a drink in another man’s face at the country club in O’Hara’s fictional town of Gibbsville. Butterfield 8 (1935), based on the notorious case of the drowned socialite Starr Faithfull, explores the speakeasy world of a hedonistic Manhattan through a damaged and volatile heroine whose frank portrayal scandalized many of the book’s early readers. Hope of Heaven (1938), one of O’Hara’s favorites among his works, shifts the scene to Los Angeles to tell the noirish tale of a relationship between Peggy Henderson, a pretty young leftist working at a bookstore, and O’Hara’s alter ego Jim Malloy. And in Pal Joey (1940), the basis for an enduring Rodgers & Hart musical, O’Hara created one of his most memorable characters, a sleazy, cynical nightclub emcee whose wised-up talk highlights O’Hara’s matchless ear for American speech. As Dorothy Parker once remarked, “O’Hara’s eyes and ears have been spared nothing.”
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