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Appointment in Samarra ()


Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (22)

At the end of every year, Brian Lamb talks to three authors on a special Booknotes on C-SPAN.  Last year one of the guests was Shelby Foote & he said that he was reading some great American authors who folks had sort of forgotten.  One of them was John O'Hara.  Now I've  seen dozens of his books at book sales, so I knew two things: one, he sold a ton of books; two, folks aren't reading them anymore.  So I picked up From the Terrace, Appointmentm in Samarra & a couple collections of the short stories & loved them all.  It was very heartening to see that he made this list. Appointment tells the story of Julian English, a WASP nervously perched atop the social heap in Gibbsville, PA.  At a Christmas party in 1930, he throws a drink in the face of the town's leading Catholic businessman and thus begins his downward spiral. O'Hara etches very sharp portraits of characters from the varying strata of society &  presents a vivid tale of an America & it's establishment shaken by the oncoming Depression and the rise of new Ethnic groups.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

John O'Hara Links:

    -REVIEW: of THE ART OF BURNING BRIDGES: A Life of John O'Hara By Geoffrey Wolff (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of The Art of Burning Bridges: A Life of John O'Hara by Geoffrey Wolff (Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly)

Book-related and General Links:
    -REVIEW: of APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA By John O'Hara  (MARGO JEFFERSON, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of COLLECTED STORIES OF JOHN O'HARA. (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of THE LIFE OF JOHN O'HARA. By Frank MacShane (Anatole Broyard, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE LIFE OF JOHN O'HARA By Frank MacShane (Alfred Kazin, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Book Ends; O'HARA, JOHN (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -John O'Hara's Study at Penn State
    -MUSICAL: Pal Joey 1940
    -ARTICLE: A Body of Evidence on LI: When a fashionably attired corpse washed ashore, the DA and the press knew what to do (Steve Wick, Long Island History)
    -ESSAY: John O'Hara's Protectorate:  Revisiting Gibbsville (Benjamin and Christina Schwarz, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: THE BEST CONVERSATION IN AMERICA (Frank McShane, NY times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: READING ABOUT THE RICH  (John Kenneth Galbraith, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY:  ONE TOO MANY FOR THE MUSE  (J. Anthony Lukas, NY Times Book Review)
    -MODERN NOVELS; THE 99 BEST (Anthony Burgess, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY:  PRINCETON'S SMALL WORLD OF BIG WRITERS (GLENN COLLINS, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: In and Out of Storyville: Jazz and Fiction  (Vance Bourjaily, NY Times Book Review)

Comments:

The book is very well written and makes its social commentary points well. But as a plot it fizzles out in the end. Julian's suicide is not well enough motivated (yes, he had a a very bad 3 days, but suicide?), and the Ed Charney/Al Grecco subplot, after seeming ominous throughout the book, never goes anywhere (Ed somehow doesnt blame Julian for sleeping with his mistress, and Al somehow doesnt follow through on his vengeful impulse for being wrongly blamed and insulted over the event). Even the inciting incident, Julian throwing his drink in Harry Reilly's face, ends tamely -- there is never a subsequent showdown and Harry seems uncharacteristically forgiving, particularly after Julian dies. So all in all, an interesting social document but not a great read.

- Ravi Jain

- Aug-02-2005, 00:14

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