Saturday, July 4, 2009

Novelist and Car Thief

On July 4th, 1919, John O'Hara, the fourteen year-old future novelist and writer of New Yorker short stories, stole his father's Buick.

O'Hara was a complex mixture of conventionality and rebellion. A sensitive soul, but an irascible drunk and a nourisher of grudges. He never got the Ivy League education he'd craved (it was withdrawn after a drunken episode on the eve of his prep school valedictory). It was a loss for which the Rolls Royces he drove, the impeccable tweeds and the address and the burial plot in Princeton could never compensate. The Nobel Committee never phoned, perhaps because his novels were trashy and sold so well. It is his short stories which endure. They provide the best picture we have of America at mid-century; sensitive, nuanced, vividly detailed. This quintessentially American writer appears five times in A Book of Ages.

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