This is another book that I read at the time of my visit to
Pennsylvania a few years ago (along with "The Valley of Fear".) I
agree, a terrific novel and one that is very much a part of the
hardboiled/noir fiction world.
On Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 4:30 PM, James Michael Rogers <email@example.com> wrote:
> I love keeping one or two canonical books in reserve for when I really need
> them. This John O'Hara classic fit the bill. In the past, all I have read of
> O'Hara's were some of the short fiction, which I had mixed feelings about.
> This was an excellent novel. Maybe not quite the great American novel, but
> that is clearly what he was shooting for and, for the most part, his
> ambition was rewarded. It's place in the hardboiled canon has always been a
> little uneasy, perhaps because of a little reverse snobbery - he was, after
> all, a New Yorker writer. But when Appointment In Samarra first appeared it
> was definitely considered the epitome of HB, and by critics who didn't
> consider that to be a compliment.
> I would go so far as to say that, without this book, there probably would be
> no Revolutionary Road and no Mad Men. It envisions the bourgouis world as a
> kind of Darwinian Hell. Thematically it owes a considerable debt to Scott
> Fitzgerald, as O'Hara acknowledged, and the style reminds me at times of
> John Dos Passos.....but mostly this is a unique voice.
> The sexuality of the book is, um, frank even by today's standards. At the
> time it appeared, it must have been truly shocking. The novel was published
> at the same time that Hammett came out with The Thin Man, which garnered
> some attention for a very oblique reference to a hard-on. O'Hara goes far,
> far beyond that. Twenty years earlier, publication would doubtless have
> resulted in an obscenity trial.
> As I grow older, I find that the old detective stuff satisfies me less and
> less and this kind of thing satisfies me more and more. If you like Patricia
> Highsmith's books or Horace McCoy, then I think you will enjoy this. Though
> enjoy may be the wrong word.
> The story is quite simple. The struggling protagonist is destroyed by what
> can only be described as a series of drunken faux pas. In the course of the
> plot, he alienates everyone from the lowest and highest gangster to his
> employer and his wife. Finally he alienates himself. In fact, the book is
> really the story of a man who discovers, one fine day, that he hates his own
> Most of you guys have probably already read this, I reckon. But for those
> who haven't or who have been keping it in reserve as I did, I give it an
> unqualified endorsement.
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