John O’Hara’s, “Appointment in Samarra,” is very simply a magnificent and brilliant piece of writing. I cannot think of an American writer whose portrayals of small town America during the 1920’s and early 1930’s realistically compares with the author. His writing is brutally realistic. You actually feel like you are eavesdropping into the conversations between characters while getting a sociological and psychological analysis of the situation.

The town of Gibbsville, Pennsylvania is the setting for the novel… A town of thirty thousand citizens, many whose family histories, date way back to the Revolutionary War. It is a town divided into the rich sections, not so rich, and the immigrants and the poor and, of course, the Jews who are excluded from the country clubs. Naturally, the one thing they all have in common is their thirst for booze and sex, and the biggest victim of these vices is Julian English, whose father is a doctor in the town, and his grandfather who is now famously remembered as a man who committed suicide. Julian is a member of the richest group, but has no problem socializing with all the groups, especially since he owns a car dealership.

It is through his demise, that we get a total picture of the town and its citizens and what a tantalizing picture it is. John O’Hara is one of the great American writers and whereas he might not be nearly as famous as Hemingway or Fitzgerald, he is certainly a member of their class. In fact, both writers praised O’Hara’s works.

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