John O’Hara Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)
ph_0111226285-Ohara_J.jpg John O’Hara Published by Salem Press, Inc.

John Henry O’Hara was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, on January 31, 1905, the son of Patrick Henry O’Hara, a well-known doctor, and Katherine Elizabeth Delaney O’Hara. He was the eldest of eight children in a Catholic family. O’Hara attended Fordham Preparatory School and the Keystone State Normal School, and he graduated from Niagara Preparatory School in 1924, after which he worked at odd jobs—a great variety of them—before finally settling into journalism. He had passed the required examinations to enroll at Yale University, but his father’s death precluded his attending college.

O’Hara worked as a reporter for two newspapers in Pennsylvania, then for three in New York. His journalistic experience was as varied as his previous work had been: He covered sports, news, politics, and religion. He served as film critic on the Morning Telegraph, football editor at The New Yorker, and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Bulletin-Index. He was employed by Time magazine and would eventually write columns for the Trenton Times-Advertiser, Collier’s, Newsweek, and Holiday. Some sources list Franey Delaney as an O’Hara pseudonym because he once wrote a radio column under that name. After the publication of his first novel, Appointment in Samarra (1934), he became a writer for motion pictures, working in turn for four of the largest studios in Hollywood.

Appointment in Samarra was such an extraordinarily successful first novel that immediately after its publication O’Hara was considered a major American writer. He went on to publish more than two dozen novels, volumes of short stories, plays, essays, and sketches. Of his more than three hundred short stories, many first appeared in The New Yorker.

Most of O’Hara’s novels were best sellers, and a number...

(The entire section is 778 words.)

John O’Hara Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

John Henry O’Hara was born January 31, 1905, the eldest child of Patrick O’Hara, M.D., and Katherine Delaney O’Hara of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He was taught to read at the age of four and given a hand-printing set at age six. After he was refused permission to graduate from Niagara Prep, even though he was valedictorian, on the grounds of drunkenness, O’Hara went back to Pottsville. His father died shortly thereafter, and O’Hara found that his father’s investments had been worthless; he was never able to attend college. His first job was on the Pottsville Journal; in 1927, he worked his way to Europe, and the next year he was in New York, working for the Herald-Tribune. He sold his first story to The New Yorker in 1928 and was published by that magazine continuously until 1949, when a review by Brendan Gill (which, James Thurber passed the word, had been written by Wolcott Gibbs) ended O’Hara’s association with the magazine, and as it turned out, interrupted his career as a short-story writer for eleven years. After 1960, O’Hara made collections of stories he liked and sent them to Albert Erskine at Random House, where they were published without the intermediation of magazine editing and publication; this accounts for the greater length of the post-1960 stories.

O’Hara did most of his work in Hollywood between 1929 and 1931, before he had ever published a novel; in 1931, he married Helen R. Petit. Although he achieved some success in the next two years, O’Hara became a hard drinker, was divorced, and eventually became the victim of despair—which became an almost suicidal mood he dispelled only by locking himself in a hotel room in New York in 1933 to write Appointment in...

(The entire section is 712 words.)

John O’Hara Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

John Henry O’Hara was born on January 31, 1905, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The town of Pottsville became the “Gibbsville” of his fiction, and the surrounding eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal-mining area, known to residents as the “Region,” was the locale of his major novels and stories. The author’s father, Patrick O’Hara, was a respected surgeon whose father had settled in the area during the American Civil War, and his mother, Katharine Delaney O’Hara, was the daughter of a prosperous businessman in nearby Lykens, which became O’Hara’s fictional “Lyons.” Patrick O’Hara, who necessarily specialized in injuries resulting from mining accidents, was seriously disappointed at his firstborn son’s refusal to study medicine. Rather than inspiring a dedication to the medical profession, O’Hara’s travels with his father to the scenes of medical emergencies provided him with regional lore that found its way into his writing.

Living on Pottsville’s “best” street, Mahantongo (“Lantenengo” in the fictional Gibbsville), was a sign of the O’Hara family’s relative affluence and provided O’Hara with an awareness of the rigid economic and ethnic stratification of the town. Until his father’s early death in 1925, O’Hara led a fairly privileged existence, and his dream of attending Yale was thwarted less by lack of funds than by O’Hara’s dismissals from three preparatory schools for low grades and disregard of discipline. The alternative to college was a job as a reporter with the Pottsville Journal in 1924,...

(The entire section is 643 words.)

John O’Hara Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
ph_0111201262-Ohara.jpg John O’Hara Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The first of eight children, John Henry O’Hara was born January 31, 1905, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania (later the Gibbsville of his fiction), to Katharine Delaney O’Hara and her considerably older husband, Patrick Henry O’Hara. Before he was legally old enough to drive, O’Hara was pressed into service as a chauffeur for his physician father during the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, an experience from which he would later develop “The Doctor’s Son,” the title story of his first collection and perhaps the strongest of his early stories. Trained as a reporter, the young O’Hara nevertheless planned to attend Yale University until the sudden death of his father changed the O’Hara family’s fortunes.

Determined to write, as a journalist if need be, O’Hara worked for a variety of newspapers in Chicago and New York, eventually attracting attention with jokes and other short pieces published by friendly columnists who admired his work. In time, he became a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, although his employment situation remained unstable until 1934, when he published Appointment in Samarra and was hired almost at once to write for the motion-picture studios in Hollywood. His short fiction, meanwhile, continued to appear in The New Yorker and in collections.

His first marriage, to Helen Petit, having ended in divorce after two years, O’Hara in 1938 married Belle Wylie, who would remain his wife (and in time was the mother of his only child) until her death in 1954. Rejected for military service during World War II because of his age and various health problems, O’Hara served briefly as a war correspondent for the now defunct Liberty magazine. Two more volumes of short stories followed, dealing in part with O’Hara’s wartime and postwar experiences.

O’Hara, meanwhile, was turning his energies increasingly toward longer fiction—considerably longer, in fact, than any of his previously published novels. Seldom praised by “serious” critics and reviewers, with whom he seemed to exist in a state of mutual distrust, O’Hara with his postwar novels drew harsher criticism than ever before. A particularly negative review of A Rage to Live in The New Yorker caused him to sever all relations with the magazine. This rupture...

(The entire section is 959 words.)

John O’Hara Biography

(Novels for Students)

John O’Hara was a prolific author who produced an impressive number of novels, plays, short stories, and essays. Born on January 31, 1905,...

(The entire section is 432 words.)