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The Big Laugh Paperback – Oct 15 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Non-Fiction (Oct. 15 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0880015756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0880015752
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 426 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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By A Customer on Sept. 22 2000
Format: Paperback
This book started off really well. The first part with Hubert Ward conniving the people around him to make ends meet and his growing stardom in the theatre were all electrifying--O'Hara at his very best--but it all goes downhill after that. First of all, O'Hara writes in exposition in the beginning and in the epilogue that Ward was a heel, but I never got that impression throughout the narrative, and Ward even came off as rather honest, blunt, and down-to-earth. Second of all, his marriage to Nina Stephens was absolutely unbelievable; and I think O'Hara may have been reading a little too much Hemingway; some of the dialog between Ward and Nina were starkly reminiscent of several early Hemingway novels. And there were even two suicides, AGAIN recalling Gatsby. Overall, "The Big Laugh" is substandard O'Hara, but a pleasurable quick read utterly without pretension and profundity. As usual, O'Hara wrote brilliantly and never wrought a boring line of prose, and he was a speed reader's dream come true.
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Format: Paperback
John O'Hara wrote in several geographies: Gibbsville, PA; Manhattan, NY; and Hollywood. The Big Laugh is one of his Hollywood novels. In his entire body of work (and it is prodigious), I would put this in the bottom 25%. It begins with a nobody forging a career in hollywood by blackmailing the first person to give him an acting job. A weak premise not usually found in O'Hara's plots. It ends with a twist -- hence the Big Laugh. This is the type of novel that is only enjoyed by someone who is a diehard fan of the author. The plotting is weak; it's missing the dialogue and little details that are a hallmark of O'Hara's outstanding work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
O'Hara's Hollywood Story June 7 2000
By Unique ViewPoint - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
John O'Hara wrote in several geographies: Gibbsville, PA; Manhattan, NY; and Hollywood. The Big Laugh is one of his Hollywood novels. In his entire body of work (and it is prodigious), I would put this in the bottom 25%. It begins with a nobody forging a career in hollywood by blackmailing the first person to give him an acting job. A weak premise not usually found in O'Hara's plots. It ends with a twist -- hence the Big Laugh. This is the type of novel that is only enjoyed by someone who is a diehard fan of the author. The plotting is weak; it's missing the dialogue and little details that are a hallmark of O'Hara's outstanding work.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
starts of rocking, but dissipates Sept. 22 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book started off really well. The first part with Hubert Ward conniving the people around him to make ends meet and his growing stardom in the theatre were all electrifying--O'Hara at his very best--but it all goes downhill after that. First of all, O'Hara writes in exposition in the beginning and in the epilogue that Ward was a heel, but I never got that impression throughout the narrative, and Ward even came off as rather honest, blunt, and down-to-earth. Second of all, his marriage to Nina Stephens was absolutely unbelievable; and I think O'Hara may have been reading a little too much Hemingway; some of the dialog between Ward and Nina were starkly reminiscent of several early Hemingway novels. And there were even two suicides, AGAIN recalling Gatsby. Overall, "The Big Laugh" is substandard O'Hara, but a pleasurable quick read utterly without pretension and profundity. As usual, O'Hara wrote brilliantly and never wrought a boring line of prose, and he was a speed reader's dream come true.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Dreadful June 14 2014
By Robert Weir Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What a terrible novel. And I say this as an O'Hara fan, sort of. His stories are quite wonderful, especially the three novellas collected in "Sermons and Soda-water." And "Appointment in Samara" is fast, terrifically well-written, and bitter. Bitter, but not cynical. O'Hara wrote "The Big Laugh" from what he thought was some sort of disdainful Olympian narrative heights, but he's faking it. His dialogue is brilliant, his conversations are baleful. We see far too clearly his misogyny, his homophobia, his anti-semeticism, all drenched in that poor-loser snobbism he perfected. This thing isn't even as good as his door-stops from the Fifties he thought would win him the Nobel.

Fran Lebowitz says that this is the greatest Hollywood novel ever written. Ms. Lebowitz needs to get out more and read some Gavin Lambert.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Big Laugh Oct. 5 2013
By Susan Bartholomew - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John O'Hara is one of my favorite authors; no one writes dialogue the way he did. Even though the story takes place many years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Thank you.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Sixties Novelty June 3 2011
By Molly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Big Laugh was originally pubished about 1962 and was a bestseller at that time. In the first few pages, the author says that it is about a man who was trying to be someone he was not. He was a rascal to begin with, tried to redeem himself and succeeded to some extent for awhile but then failed in the end.
Hubert Ward was kicked out by his family, cheated a friend out of rent money, killed a woman in a hit and run incident, and when he got desperate enough, he blackmailed a producer for a bit part in a play. From there he went to Hollywood where he became a huge star, participating in the glamor life, though he drank very little, did not gamble, and generally restrained himself from fooling around with married women, who often tried to seduce him. He fell madly in love with and married a young society woman who eventually got tired of him and began seeing a writer on the side. So he decided to have an affair of his own and made a bad choice -- he selected the girl friend of the producer he had first blackmailed in the beginning of his career. The producer found out about it and killed his girlfriend and himself.
I failed to see how the stated premise was played out. I found the dialogue to be weak and improbable, but the pages of unparagraphed narrative were strangely entertaining. I suspect that the bit that made this book a bestseller was the overt sex, both homo- and hetero-, which was not common in the mainstream in the early 60's. I suspect people found it titilating at the time; it's tame by today's standards. However, there is something more and I'm not sure what it is, unless it's the true story of the author's own personal life, at least part of it. While it is certainly not a "page-turner," it is interesting in some way, even though I personally have no interest in the lives of the Hollywood rich and famous.


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