Friday, January 06, 2017

FFB: My Turn -- John O'Hara

When I was in high school and college, I read quite a few novels by John O'Hara.  Lately I've been enjoying his short stories.  My Turn is nonfiction, a collection of syndicated columns that O'Hara wrote from October 1964 to October 1965.  Each column is about two pages long, and O'Hara got $1000 for each one.  Not bad in 1965 dollars, and of course the column was just a sideline for him.  He was a former straight-ticket Democrat who'd become a straight-ticket Republican by the time the columns were written, and apparently a good many newspapers dropped the column over the course of the year.  The syndicate could no longer afford them, and O'Hara refused to take a pay cut.  Thus ended the column.

O'Hara was free to write about whatever he wanted to, and mostly he wrote about his personal views.  You might not think the columns would be relevant now, but you know the old expression about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Lots of this stuff could be redone today if the names were changed.  Black men being shot by cops?  That's covered.  Gun control?  Yep.  Liberal bashing?  Plenty of that.  The thing about O'Hara's writing and opinions is that they're always urbane, civilized.  He doesn't go for ranting, but you never have any doubt about where he stands.  The fifty years that have gone by since the writing of the columns give them plenty of distance.  It's easy to read them as entertainment and to enjoy O'Hara's opinions of some of his fellow writers (he didn't care for most of them) and politicians (he liked Barry Goldwater but didn't like Lyndon Johnson).  People under fifty, or maybe under sixty, reading this book might feel as if they're reading about events as ancient as the Punic Wars.  To me at least 95% of the names were as familiar as if I'd seen them yesterday.  It's a short book, and I found it a lot of fun.

6 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I went on a huge O'Hara reading jag during the first four months of 1997, mostly fiction but some non fiction as well, but I missed this one.

George said...

This sound intriguing! I'll have to track down a copy.

Deb said...

Love his short stories, not so much his novels. Based on your review, I'm not surprised that one O'Hara biography was titled THE ART OF BURNING BRIDGES.

Richard Robinson said...

Sounds like it could be interesting in a way, but I'm trying to avoid as much Sturm ind Drang as possible these days.

Mathew Paust said...

You sold me, Bill. I was a big O'Hara fan back in the day. I still remember the crashing sensation in Ten North Frederick when Joe Chapin's presidential aspirations go down the toilet. And I'll never forget Appointment in Samarra. I didn't know about his column-writing.

Elgin Bleecker said...

Bill – Thanks for the review. I don’t think I have ever read any of his journalism. In the 1990s, I read a lot of O’Hara. It was easy, back then, to find used paperbacks of his novels and short story collections. Try finding them today.