1956 -- Ten North Frederick

Ten North Frederick, published midway through John O’Hara’s thirty-five-year career was his greatest popular and critical success. In his New Yorker review, St. Clair McKelway described the new book as the best evidence so far that O’Hara was a “born novelist,” one whose “single purpose [is] to say ‘This is what happened’ and ‘This is how it came about.’” O’Hara took great pride in these remarks, citing them in a letter written several years later as being “decisively important to me.” Perhaps too much pride: among the evidence which O’Hara’s biographers and critics offer to show his high self-regard is a very similar boast in his acceptance speech for the National Book Award:

…since 1934 I have been publishing novels and books of short stories in which I told as honestly as I could what I have seen, thought, and felt a good many of the men and women who populate this country…. I have written so accurately and honestly that my overall contribution will have to be considered by future students of my time.

Perhaps fearing that the future students might need reminding, O’Hara composed a similar epigraph for his tombstone: “Better than anyone else, he told the truth about his time, the first half of the twentieth century. He was a professional. He wrote honestly and well.”

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