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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.

 

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. I think O’Hara is more to be pitied than to be hated. Seems to me he had a very bad case of a poor self-image. The sad thing is that John O’Hara the writer was very talented and John O’Hara the human being destroyed anything that the writer in him might have produced. Seems that was Updike’s conclusion too.

    But guess what? Hemingway was not always a wonderful human being either. And I think there are a lot of other writers we would judge the same way. And artists as well. But that should not keep us away from enjoying the person’s work. I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that because creativity is so demanding of the person and forces that person to be so vulnerable, maybe it is in the work where we see the real person. Not in the physical form of the person.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 9, 2014
    • Good thoughts, Don. I’m really enjoying this novel, so I think that will have a positive affect on how I view O’Hara.

      Like

      September 10, 2014
  2. Reblogged this on abpriestly and commented:
    😀

    Like

    September 9, 2014
  3. How interesting! I believe I shall write my own epitaph as well…Please put, Beloved mother and the best darn tootin author of dragons and fairies ever in the whole wide universe…EVER.

    Oh bother…My stone may not be big enough for that 😉

    I look forward to seeing what else you come up with for this pitiful man/wonderful author.

    Like

    September 9, 2014
    • Ha! We’ll see. Maybe I’ll end up liking him after all. Maybe he was just the Stephen Colbert of his time.

      Liked by 1 person

      September 10, 2014
  4. Maybe I should write my epitaph. Somehow, I don’t think I can pull off ” She was better than anyone else.”

    Like

    September 9, 2014
  5. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    John O’Hara…a man who apparently wrote his own glowing epitaph…thank you Robert!

    Like

    September 9, 2014
  6. Let me urge you to join WordPress’s campaign for internet neutrality. Thanks.
    http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/fight-for-net-neutrality/

    Like

    September 9, 2014
  7. Please make sure they write this on mine, ” Don’t cry now, I’m finally happy.”
    I always enjoy your blog and insights, thanks for reminding me to write my own epitaph. By the time I figured out I could do it, I would already be dead. 🙂

    Like

    September 10, 2014

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