Dawn Reader

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

Friday, January 20, 2012

Journey with John O'Hara

Today, I finished reading the final piece of fiction that John O'Hara (1905-1970) was working on when he died on April 11.  He actually wrote on the day he died--his custom was to write late at night and sleep all morning (that way, no one bothered him when he was at the typewriter).  He had tentatively titled this novel The Second Ewings, a sequel to his earlier novel--which takes place in Cleveland, by the way--The Ewings.  (Bill Ewing is a rising star in finance; his wife, Edna, is from Michigan.  In the first novel, they meet, marry, are happy; in the sequel, they start taking off their clothes with people to whom they are not married--can you imagine?

O'Hara was a one-draft writer--typing (on yellow paper) on a manual typewriter, then doing a very light copy-edit (adding a word or two, fixing typos) before sending the pages directly to Random House, his career-long publisher.  Scholar Matthew Bruccoli, an O'Hara biographer and collector, decided to publish The Second Ewings as a typescript, so in 1977 here came The Second Ewings in a box of seventy-four yellow sheets (he had finished only seventy-four pages of the novel). 

The novel is not every good, I fear--though O'Hara had not really written anything too terribly good in a while.  He was proud of his ability to write quickly (he had been a journalist--and had various journalism assignments throughout his life), and he needed to be a little less proud of it.  But ... his works sold well, no matter what.  And that made him rich--but, I fear, it also made him lazy.  Yes, he was a very disciplined writer (every night, no matter what), but in other ways he was very undisciplined, refusing to accept editorial suggestions, disdaining other writers, feeling screwed that he never won the Nobel Prize.  He considered himself the equal of Hemingway and Faulkner; he wasn't.

Still, he wrote some great short stories, and some of his early novels (Appointment in Samaraa, for example) I really like.

In future posts, I'll write more about O'Hara and my journey through his complete works, which is nearing its end.  All that remains are his uncollected journalism (I copied a bunch of it from magazines and microfilm in the library), his published letters, and some odds-n-ends (speeches, monographs).

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