Darcy O'Brien John Lahr - Essay

John Lahr

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Darcy O'Brien's first novel [A Way of Life, Like Any Other] … is a story of growing up in Hollywood among the famous and the faded. As his title implies, Mr O'Brien treats the fools and the fatuity of Hollywood in a matter of fact, throwaway manner. The result is to turn a potential feast into a famine….

Each chapter is a set-piece of self-deception played out against legendary locales which Mr O'Brien conspicuously refrains from describing.

Only the daffy affluence of Beverly Hills comes alive….

The narrator is supposed to grow up in the course of the novel which ends with him at eighteen about to go to college. But the narrative tone is uneven, breaking the fictional convention by jumping ahead of the character in sophistication and losing the dramatic irony. The twelve-year-old narrator, observing his mother's face puffed from drink, describes it as "reticulated with frantic capillaries". Still, the book is an honourable enough first effort….

John Lahr, "High Living," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1977; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), October 21, 1977, p. 1249.

["A Way of Life, Like Any Other" is an] eccentric, cynical, and sometimes exceedingly funny first novel about the coming of age of the son of two aging, divorced Hollywood has-beens…. The story … conveys a great deal of feeling beneath a deceptively deadpan surface. The book has its oddities—such as a bewildering scene in which the boy and his father pay a long afternoon visit to the director John Ford, and a tendency to snatch the reader away from the characters just when they seem most interesting—but it is certainly the most literate "Hollywood novel" to have appeared in years. (p. 110)

The New Yorker (© 1978 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), February 6, 1978.