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John O'Hara

American journalist

Died when: 65 years 70 days
Star Sign: Aquarius

 

John O'Hara John Henry O'Hara (January 31, 1905 – April 11, 1970) was an American writer who earned his early literary reputation for short stories and became a best-selling novelist before the age of 30 with Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8. His work stands out among that of contemporaries for its unvarnished realism. While O'Hara's legacy as a writer is debated, his champions rank him highly among the under-appreciated and unjustly neglected major American writers of the 20th century. Few college students educated after O'Hara's death in 1970 have discovered him, chiefly because he refused to allow his work to be reprinted in anthologies used to teach literature at the college level. "O’Hara may not have been the best story writer of the twentieth century, but he is the most addictive," wrote Lorin Stein, editor-in-chief of the Paris Review, in a 2013 appreciation of O'Hara's work. Stein added, "You can binge on his collections the way some people binge on Mad Men, and for some of the same reasons. On the topics of class, sex, and alcohol—that is, the topics that mattered to him—his novels amount to a secret history of American life." Five of O'Hara's works were adapted into popular films in the 1950s and 1960s. However, even during his lifetime, O'Hara damaged his literary reputation with his outsized and easily bruised ego, alcoholic crankiness, long-held resentments, and politically conservative views. John Updike, a fan of O'Hara's writing, said that the prolific author "out-produced our capacity for appreciation; maybe now we can settle down and marvel at him all over again."
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