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Next Up: Appointment In Samarra

I’ve seen Appointment in Samarra, written by John O’ Hara, compared to The Great Gatsby.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I consider that extremely high praise–almost impossible-to-meet expectations to put on a novel.

The novel focuses on Julian English, once a member of the social elite in small-town Pennsylvania, and follows his self-destruction.

A few facts about Appointment in Samarra and John O’ Hara:

  • The novel was published in 1934 and was O’ Hara’s first novel.
  • O Hara’s inspiration from the novel came from a W. Somerset Maugham play called Sheppey.
  • Appointment in Samarra was a controversial book when it was released. The Saturday Review titled their review of the novel “Mr. O’Hara and the Vulgar School.”
  • Sinclair Lewis called the novel “nothing but infantilism—the erotic visions of a hobbledehoy behind the barn.” What does that even mean?
  • Even in recent times, the book has been ridiculed. In March 2000, The Atlantic Monthly wrote “So widespread is the literary world’s scorn for John O’Hara that the inclusion … of Appointment in Samarra on the Modern Library‘s list of the 100 best [English-language] novels of the twentieth century was used to ridicule the entire project.”
  • O’Hara is best known for Appointment in Samarra, but he also wrote dozens of short stories and other novels, including the BUtterfield 8 in 1935.
  • O’Hara was a staunch conservative and wrote a series of political columns for Newsday that were cut short because of the backlash the paper received.
  • He passed away in 1970, at the age of 65, from cardiovascular disease.

Well, this guy sounds like an interesting writer for sure.

Just from spending 15 minutes researching Appointment in Samarra and John O’Hara, I’m already intrigued about finding more out about him.

Any experience with O’Hara or this novel?

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sam #

    The only time I’ve heard of this title was in Will Schwalbe’s ‘The End of Your Life Book Club.’ He said he’d been hesitant going into it, but really enjoyed the novel. I hope you enjoy it as well.

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    September 4, 2014
  2. These are the books that make me excited! A lot of them I’ve heard of, or even read, but there are quite a few that I’ve never heard of and I love the experience of you revealing tidbits about the author and the book!

    Like

    September 4, 2014
  3. Teresa #

    I read it. I think it’s a stretch to compare it to Gatsby. To me it’s more like The Sheltering Sky in theme. Can’t say I cared for either one. I don’t find self-destruction appealing. That said, Samarra was an easy read.

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    September 4, 2014
  4. fantastic book. “there the bastards”

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    September 4, 2014
  5. It’s very much a poor man’s Gatsby.

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    September 4, 2014
  6. In Begley’s biography of John Updike, he mentioned that O’Hara had a reputation for being someone who was not easy to get along with. Also Elizabeth Taylor was in the film version of Butterfield 8 and Paul Newman did On the Terrace. Some writers have said that his short stories are great. Looking forward to your postings on O’Hara.

    Like

    September 4, 2014
    • Have you seen that he wrote the epitaph for his own tombstone? Posting about that next week.

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      September 5, 2014
  7. I wasn’t interested until I read this post. Now I am!

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    September 4, 2014
  8. I’m a confirmed O’Hara fan, and Appointment in Samarra is one of my favorites. I think O’Hara is underappreciated; the root of Sinclair Lewis’s sneering is that O’Hara took seriously that which Lewis ridiculed. O’Hara’s work is like a Norman Rockwell painting, but where the good kid gets a black eye or worse, and the kindly barber shortchanges his customers two bits.

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    September 4, 2014
  9. This book was not on my list of Best Books TBR, but now I am so curious. Unfortunately, I already passed “Gatsby,” which might have made a good time to slide it in. Note taken.

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    September 4, 2014
  10. I read it a while back. It would bear a second reading.

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    September 5, 2014
  11. I’ve not read this novel, so I’m looking forward to your review. Does the title of the book come from the story of Death planning to meet a merchant?

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    September 7, 2014
  12. So excited that I just found your blog!!! What a great idea. I’ve read many of these books and thus, will spend some time perusing your blog! I too, am a runner, so that also caught my eye. Great blog!

    Like

    September 9, 2014

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