terça-feira, 28 de abril de 2009

Appointment in Samarra, by John O'Hara

Appointment in Samarra
Author: John O'Hara (1934)

O'Hara did for fictional Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, what Faulkner did for Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi: surveyed its social life and drew its psychic outlines. But he did it in utterly worldly terms, without Faulkner's taste for mythic inference or the basso profundo of his prose. Julian English is a man who squanders what fate gave him. He lives on the right side of the tracks, with a country club membership and a wife who loves him. His decline and fall, over the course of just 72 hours around Christmas, is a matter of too much spending, too much liquor and a couple of reckless gestures. (Now Julian, don't throw that drink in the well-connected Irishman's face. Don't make that pass at the gangster's mistress.) That his calamity is petty and preventable only makes it more powerful. In Faulkner the tragedies all seem to be taking place on Olympus, even when they're happening among the lowlifes. In O'Hara they could be happening to you.—R.L.

From the TIME Archive:
"O'Hara writes with swift realism, wisely avoids sentimentality"

Monday, Aug. 20, 1934
APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA—John O'Hara—Harcourt, Brace

Presented is the city of Gibbsville, Pa. (pop.: 24,032), battening on the anthracite coal industry at a time when the Depression was called the Slump. In a story of only three days, John O'Hara succeeds in covering as much ground about Gibbsville as Sinclair Lewis did in describing Gopher Prairie (Main Street) in three years. He writes with swift realism, wisely avoids sentimentality.
The story is one of liquor, love and fights, of the Lantenengo Street smart set of Gibbsville, of the town's underworld. Julian and Caroline English, married four years and still in love with each other, attend a Christmas Eve party at the Lantenengo Country Club. There Julian gets drunk, dashes his highball into the fat face of the richest man in town whose stories are a bore. Result: a black eye for the richest man in town, new enemies for Julian, a fight with Caroline.
Christmas night sees another party at the Club at which Julian proceeds to get drunk again. The quarreling Englishes traipse along with other youngsters to the Stage Coach. Turning his back on Caroline, Julian takes a roadhouse entertainer outside. It was a bad choice; the girl belonged to Gibbsville's No. 1 underworldling. Day after Christmas Julian is still in a black mood when friends rake him over the coals. That night, getting drunk alone in his house, he realizes what a fool he has made of himself in three days. He goes out to the garage, shuts the door, starts the motor. But the story does not end.
Author John O'Hara, 29, is a rolling stone who has travelled from his hometown Pottsville, Pa. Journal to the Paramount studios in Hollywood. He has contributed stories to The New Yorker, Scrib- ner's, Vanity Fair. "In addition," he says, "I have jerked soda, worked on two railroads and in a steel mill, on an ocean liner and a farm . . . bummed east and west, was a day laborer. I was married once. ..." Appointment in Samarra is his first novel. A volume of his short stories, The Doctor's Son, will be published this autumn.

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