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BUtterfield 8 Paperback – Apr 1 2003


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Paperback, Apr 1 2003
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Gifts For Dad




Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (April 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812966988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812966985
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.3 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 186 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #872,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“A man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well.” —Ernest Hemingway

From the Back Cover

“A man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well.” —Ernest Hemingway

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Sparked by the mysterious real life drowning in 1931 of a young New York woman who was later revealed to be a bit of a good time girl as well as victim of childhood sexual abuse, O'Hara's second novel remains remarkably fresh and readable, with surprising sensibilities for the time toward topics such as pedophilia and alcoholism. Of course, alcoholism is something O'Hara had first-hand experience with. A contemporary of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and an intimate of Dorothy Parker, he was a renown nasty drunk, with a penchant for three day benders. This experience serves him well in this study of Gloria Wandrous, a pretty, promiscuous woman who spends a good part of her young life trying to drink her demons away in Manhattan's Prohibition-era speakeasies. Her demons stem from being sexually abused as a child, a trauma that led to her sexual promiscuity when she is more mature (interestingly, recent studies have revealed a significant correlation between sexual abuse as a child and promiscuity later in life).
Gloria is what used to be called "damaged goods"óunderneath her brittle shell and drunken pain, she is smart, kind and caring. Despite these fine qualities, she's emotionally unequipped to deal with true love and tries to run away from it, as she does from everything else. On the first page we learn that she will meet an unhappy ending, and then the story begins with Gloria waking in the apartment of her latest one-night stand and walking out with the man's wife's fur coat. This spur of the moment decision has a series of repercussions, which play out over the next few days as a whole slew of characters intersect and the threads of the simple plot are brought together.
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Format: Paperback
O'Hara, it has been said, writes like you always wish Fitzgerald had actually written. He describes much the same privileged world, but without the chocolate-box sentimentality. His characters are often moral monsters--to themselves as well as others--but they do seem real, as does the New York world of speakeasies and glamorous apartments in 1931 he describes here. His central character, Gloria Wandrous, a beautiful cosmopolitan girl living on her wits and her sex appeal, seems a clear forerunner of Sally Bowles and Holly Golightly, except she is much less madcap and much more tragic. The central action is Gloria's swiping an expensive fur coat from the closets of a married wealthy new Yorker who brought her to his apartment and tore her dress off in order to date-rape her; we are then introduced to a series of characters who will all come together through the chain of events set off by Gloria's taking of the coat. This is a hard book to put down. Though the world it describes is incredibly sordid, it feels like a place you could easily visit and recognize.
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Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed O'Hara in the past and I had always wanted to read this book. When I saw that Fran Leibowitz wrote the introduction, I thought "it's time."
O'Hara sets the book in the early 1930's in New York City. He focuses his sharp powers of observation on the "speakeasy" class of New York: those individuals with still enough wealth to spend time in illegal bars drinking their worries away. At first, you think "ah, these are the beautiful people." Of course, soon you realize that these individuals are anything but beautiful.
The heroine, or anti-heroine, Gloria, is a beautiful, young woman of loose morals and some inherited wealth. She is smart-we're told she could have gone to Smith-and underneath everything, kind. But sexual abuse early on triggered a rampant promiscuity.
O'Hara specializes in delineating the subtle class differences-the Catholics who went to Yale as opposed to the Wasps-that existed at this time. He structures class systems in his novels as rigidly as any Brahmin.
I would recommend this book for individuals who enjoy contemporary fiction, particularly books set in New York that depict wealthy, beautiful people. (If you like Fitzgerald, you'll like this book.) Both men and women can enjoy this book-as Fran Leibowitz says in her introduction, "it's a young man's book" in many ways.
I would not recommend this book for individuals who dislike "dated" fiction (though this book is surprising fresh in many ways) or books that verge on melodrama.
One note about the Leibowitz's introduction: I found it excellent. She has some acute observations-sex is an animal desire, the perception of it human and changing according to mores in vogue-that have stayed with me.
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Format: Paperback
In his astoundingly productive career, John O'Hara wrote 402 stories and 14 novels. Reportedly, he drove fellow staffers at The New Yorker to fury because he could sit down at a typewriter and just bang away at the keys nonstop until a finished story rolled out. (These facts come from John Sacret Young's intro to this book.) I've read several of the story collections and a couple of the novels and O'Hara's style is fairly distinctive. He plumbs the faultlines of society where the slumming rich meet with the aspiring poor. His stories are driven by dialogue and crisp, witty, trenchant dialogue at that, much like the hard-boiled private eye novels of Hammett and Chandler. His tone is cynical; his subjects doomed. You get the sense that if he knew a pedestrian was about to be run down in front of him, he wouldn't even turn his head. And after witnessing the accident he'd race to a typewriter to share the ugly scene with his readers. He is a kind of an upscale noir writer, a tony purveyor of pulp fiction.
BUtterfield 8 is a roman a clef (based on a real incident) and you can see why the story appealed to him. On June 8, 1931, the dead body of a young woman named Starr Faithfull--no seriously, her name was Starr Faithfull--was found on Long Beach, Long Island. Subsequent reporting uncovered a life of easy morals and much time spent in speakeasies and such piquant details as her childhood molestation by a former mayor of Boston. Despite rumors of political motives for her murder and a supposed secret diary, no one was ever charged in her death.
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