This is avowedly an ""advocacy biography,"" combining the narrative of John O'Hara's life and career with a critical...



This is avowedly an ""advocacy biography,"" combining the narrative of John O'Hara's life and career with a critical reappraisal meant to win him a place ""among the classic American writers."" Bruccoli ranks O'Hara high on craft, application and vision, and defends him persuasively against critical charges of cryptic or superficial detail, structural weakness, and careless writing. He wants O'Hara recognized as an artist, not just a social historian--though his eye for the social significance of detail and his obsession with accurate dialogue made his novels, in his own words, probably ""as reliable as the work of the formal historians of our time."" The reader may or may not agree with Bruccoli's estimate of O'Hara, but will be fascinated by his demonstration of the interrelation of the writer's life and work--a presentation which is concise and astute rather than profound, leaving the reader to do his own reflecting. O'Hara was plagued throughout his youth by a preoccupation with ""class""--the special grace the rich have--and his concomitant sense of failure, a self-destructive drinking streak and irreconcilablity with his stubborn doctor father having conspired to keep him out of Yale and get him kicked out of early reporting jobs. Quoting early O'Hara journalism and uncensored letters from a censored era, Bruccoli follows him through his first prolonged, frustrated love, his first unsuccessful marriage, his erratic alcoholic years in New York and Hollywood, his fallings in and out with The New Yorker, his name-dropping friendships (Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Benchley, Bogart), into the haven of his second marriage to the perfect writer's wife, when his life and craft finally stabilized. Yet O'Hara's writing harked back to early despair--his dedication to work remaining as stubbornly affirmative as his vision was bleak. And circumscribed by a special time, a special place?

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1975


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1975