Here’s A Guy Who Wrote His Own Epitaph
It’s said that John O’Hara wrote the epitaph that appears on his tombstone.
You catch that? He wrote his own epitaph.
“Better than anyone else, he told the truth about his time, the first half of the twentieth century. He was a professional.”
“Better than anyone else.” Who says that about themselves—on our their own tombstone, no less?
John O’Hara…that’s who.
Whether or not the claim is true, O’Hara was a hugely controversial figure, and it seems plausible that he would be telling you how amazing he is (or was), even from the grave. The New Yorker quotes Fran Lebowitz explaining that O’Hara is an underrated author because “every single person who knew him hated him.”
He was a violent alcoholic early in his life and routinely picked fights in bars. But even after he sobered up, his fanatical self-promotion and snobbery never stopped. According to The New Yorker, he was “addicted to the tokens of success.”
He collected matchbooks from high-end clubs and hotels and littered them across his home in order to appear that he had been there. He demanded high-priced lunches at the Ritz from his publisher. And, though he never attended college, he spent a lot of time lobbying Yale for an honorary degree, which he never received.
I love the story Joyce Carol Oates tells about O’Hara in the video below to demonstrate his ego. A reader approached O’Hara in the streets of New York and said, “I loved your novel Appointment in Samarra!” To which O’Hara responded, “What was wrong with the other ones?”
Probably a common thought from authors, but O’Hara just verbalized it.
In all, sounds like O’Hara might have been a jerk, even though he was a excellent writer. We’ll talk about him more in the next couple of weeks as I continue on with Appointment in Samarra.