Appointment in Samarra Paperback – Apr 1 2008
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"Mr O'Hara's eyes and ears have been spared nothing, but he has kept in his heart a curious and bitter mercy" -- Dorothy Parker "O'Hara writes with swift realism, wisely avoids sentimentality" Time Magazine "Dramatic...exciting...vivid and written at high speed...accurate and often penetrating" The Nation "Better than anyone else, he told the truth about his time, the first half of the twentieth century. He was a professional. He wrote honestly and well" -- John O'Hara on John O'Hara. He had this inscribed on his gravestone.
From the Back Cover
“Exceptionally brilliant.” —New York Herald Tribune
“[O'Hara] is the only American writer to whom America presents itself as a social scene in the way it once presented itself to Henry James, or France to Proust.” —Lionel Trilling, The New York Times
“Dramatic . . . exciting . . . vivid and written at high speed . . . accurate and often penetrating.” —The Nation
“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra.” —Ernest Hemingway --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
At its basic level, "Samarra" inserts a stick of dynamite into the safe, complacent world of affluent, East coast snobbery by introducing into it an influx of immigrants and "new" money. The WASP environment of cocktail parties, Ivy League schools and country clubs couldn't be sheltered forever from European emigres, specifically Jews, with money of their own. I don't want to give anything of the plot away, but I will say that there is a tragedy in this book, and the ripples it sends through the rich community that serves as the focus of this novel's story are meant to signify the larger ripples affecting American culture on a much greater scale as the heady days of the Roaring 20's give way to the more sombre and politically aware days of the 30's and 40's.
I'm not completely sure what to make of a side story involving some petty mobsters, but I assume their intrusion into the fabric of this East coast society is meant as yet one more example of the loss of security from which these people felt by rights they would be sheltered.
There is no reason not to read "Appointment in Samarra." It won't take up much of your time, and I promise you won't ever be bored by it. Whether you'll find it profound or especially memorable is another story. I didn't particularly find it either, but I would recommend it nonetheless.
My tip: read this book. If nothing else you'll learn about bituminous and anthracitic coal, the United Mine Workers, how to mix a martini, (and throw one), why fraternities were ever important, and what a flivver was. It's certainly a period piece, and O'Hara does not hold back with the language of the jazz age...which may confuse modern readers (it was a gay party, his chains dropped a link, etc.) In fact, O'Hara was an early adopter of using slang and vernacular in writing the spoken word, and you can be the judge of whether or not he gets an Irish mobster's (or a "high hat's") tone correctly.
He's really at his best with character development, because Julian English (our protaganist) is our bigoted confidante, our tiresome spouse, our wretched boss, our surly neighbor, our spoiled college-boy brat, our pretentious friend and our preening big man about town all in one. O'Hara waltzes us through Julian's demise and we root for him, for one more chance, all the way down.
One man, going to dances and social clubs, trying to keep his community standing in tact, maintaining his marriage, just couldn't take it anymore. A simple thing like disliking a man's story later tears his life apart. Such a simple constrained life blew up like a high-pressure balloon.
While not a story with action or a plot, it is a literary device that portrays the upper-middle class life at that time. It's a nice timepiece and gives the reader a sense of living that life. A typical small Depression era American town with a country club and speak easy.
It's a suprisingly quick and easy read, with a good description of life, and an opening for social interests. Unfortunately, it doesn't captivate readers like many other literary masterpieces.
A first novel . . . hmmm . . . I suppose he is well worth remembering. I can think of few books I'd put in the same class with Appointment in Samarra, a stirring, absorbing tragedy of unrealistic aspiration and retreat into self-destruction. Being of the bitter and resentful sort I found definitions of behaviors I'd experienced and a frighteningly accurate explanation of actions I had considered and feelings I had suppressed. The dialogue is blunt and true, the sorts of slangy toss offs people said in the early 30s when they were through with being polite.
As far as a limited perspective can see, this is a perminant picture of life in 1930s America going horribly, horribly wrong.
Most recent customer reviews
It all depends. If you class John O'Hara as an American writer of popular fiction, then he must be up there at the very top with detailed descriptions of his society, use of both... Read morePublished on June 11 2004 by Bob Newman
Then read this...pronto. Rated the #22 fiction book of the 20th Century, Appointment in Samarra did not disappoint. Read morePublished on April 24 2004 by Chris Salzer
Classism and alcoholism before any 'disease model' or political correctness. Reading this book is like some sort of regression into a time when your name was your destiny and if... Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2002 by L. Dann
This appears to be a novel written by a young writer that was not to happy with the people in his hometown. Read morePublished on July 26 2002 by Stan Eissinger
John O'Hara is like a cross between F.S. Fitzgerald and D.H. Lawrence, if you care to think of it in those terms. Read morePublished on Dec 12 2001 by Scooper
ï¿½Appointment in Samarraï¿½ is a great novel. I was led to read it by an article in the Atlantic Monthly that lamented the pretentiousness of much of contemporary... Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2001 by Frank Gibbons
The title comes from a tale attributed to Somerset Maugham (reprinted just in front of the first page of my edition). Read morePublished on April 29 2001 by Gregory N. Hullender