Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, January 21, 2012

John O'Hara, continued

Today, I finished two short O'Hara publications.  The first was from 1925 when O'Hara, just twenty years old, was working as a cub reporter at his hometown Pottsville (Pa.) Journal.  He was home doing penance.  He had been the valedictorian of his high school class--at Niagara Preparatory School--but was not allowed to graduate because, well, he got drunk and was caught.  His father, a physician in Pottsville, had wanted his son to follow in his career, but he refused to let him continue on to Yale (the Family Plan) until he worked a year to prove himself.  Well, he proved two things that year: he could write; he loved to drink.  And he never did go to Yale.

Anyway, that year (1925) the paper celebrated its centennial with a special issue, and young O'Hara wrote a piece "A Cub Tells His Story," a piece that would have vanished along with all of his other work for that paper (the archive at the paper is missing many years)--except people saved that anniversary issue.  In 1974--four years after his death--scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli published O'Hara's piece in a special limited edition (just 150 cc--and, yes, I have one!).  It's full of youthful enthusiasm and easy irony.  But the young man can write, no question about it.  Near the end, he wrote: "I have every hope of winning a Pulitzer Prize [he didn't--though he won a National Book Award], and if I ever get to it, I intend to write the Great American Novel [he didn't do that, either--but he wrote some good ones]."

The other piece is a speech he made at the Library of Congress in 1957 in a series called Three Views of the Novel.  The two other speakers were Irving Stone and MacKinlay Kantor.  From all accounts, he was not an effective speaker (I've ordered some audio recordings of him--and will let you know!), but the written version shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of O'Hara.  He could be witty and self-deprecating (he said that he didn't have the time to read much besides newspapers and magazines); he could be appreciative of others (especially Hemingway and Faulkner in this speech); he could be bitter (the last couple of pages are about how stupid book reviewers are ... hmmmmm ...); he could be insightful (he did not believe there were very many readers of good books in America); he could be disorganized--the price he paid for composing at the typewriter and not revising.  Practically in mid-thought (about censorship), he suddenly writes: "I think we are overlegislated as it is, and not only in the book world, and I think it is also time for me to say thank you and let you go home.  Thank you, and good night" (29).

No comments:

Post a Comment