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...
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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.)