John O’Hara Additional 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,...

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(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...

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(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.)