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A Rage to Live by John O'Hara
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A Rage to Live (1949)

by John O'Hara

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Interesting saga taking place in the WWI era in Harrisburg, PA (Fort Penn in the novel) near where i grew up as a kid. I enjoyed very much the daily life and social structure routine detail that one typically finds in O'Hara's books. Plenty of Pennsylvania Dutch references and names that i am very familiar with, but never encounter in my new home in Maine. And there was plenty of politics tucked away here as well, and the perspective is very interesting....i mean all the talk of the corruption and unfairness in today's political world pales in comparison to the truly corrupt backroom chicanery that went on in those days of smoke-filled backroom deals, and at a time when women still could not even vote. Believe me, things have changed a lot, and seemingly for the better, a fact quite often lost on too many.

The tale was kept interesting for me as it followed the trials and tribulations of the well-to-do Caldwell/Tate family, since it was full of completely unexpected twists and turns that i always seemed unprepared for. That in itself was a good thing, but it also sometimes left me wondering where are we going with this.....but then again, is not that also very true of our own lives? I'm an old car guy and there was lots of very specific descriptive, and accurate, i might add, references to wonderful old cars of the era, and that will always win you points in my book! I have usually enjoyed the O'Hara i have read thus far, and this was no exception. I have almost everything he wrote, so i look forward to the next one i pull from the shelf, whenever that will be. ( )
1 vote jeffome | May 5, 2012 |
An interesting look at the evolution of females in society, and the prejudices which exist in smaller areas of America. I wasn't sure of this one in the beginning but it turned out to be quite good. ( )
  trinibaby9 | Nov 24, 2009 |
wow.

there is an introduction in my edition here, which states that O’Hara was considered in the same circle as Faulkner and Hemingway and Fitzgerald during his time. I was immediately intrigued, as I’m a huge fan of Faulkner, and of course I’ve studied Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but I hadn’t so much as heard of O’Hara.

more’s the pity! what an excellent author! I should have known; the read was suggested by none other than John McWhorter , who also suggested The Murder of Helen Jewett . I loved that book as well. they’re not the same kind of book, by any means, but this linguist knows his literature!

thank you Professor McWhorter ;)

A Rage to Live is an epic, to say the least. 700 pages. but more than just length… it’s not just length that blabs on and on and on and tries to impress the reader with big words or endear its characters by means of archetypal dramas. no, this is 100% pure, real Americana. straight-forward, undiluted, real people, the way real people act, talk, and go about their lives justifying their actions and their behavior to themselves.

the setting is the turn of the century, 1900, Pennsylvania. I’ve never been to Pennsylvania, and pardon me but I’ve never thought much about it either. not that I think much about New York or Vermont or the West Indes. it just hadn’t come up. but O’Hara puts you there. and the vista from which you experience it is not just from the upper class, not just the middle class, not just the poor and the servants. you experience life from all levels, and it’s just like you’ve grown up there watching it unfold before your very eyes. from life on the farm to life in the city, perfectly natural. from the eyes of the craftsman to the eyes of the newspaperman to the eyes of the idle gentry. from the native’s perspective to the foreigner’s perspective. from the Irish view point to the Pennsylvanian Dutch view point to the Black American view point. from the child to the adult.

if there is a universal truth about Americans, it is that we are all so darn independent and we all have our own views, independent from each other (comparatively, considering other cultures in the world), and that there are so many different kinds of us. O’Hara captures this perfectly and conveys it in a straight-shooting manner that makes no character evil or pure (but sometimes both); in other words: real.

the Caldwells are a prominent, practically the founding, family in the fictional Pennsylvanian capital of Fort Penn. (O’Hara’s replacement for Harrisburg.) to sum up very very quickly, the story covers their daughter, Grace Caldwell, from early childhood to her later life, and documents the events leading to the inevitable fall of the Caldwell family; and also how at no point in time does Grace herself ever consider herself fallen or defeated, or even, one might interpret, responsible. O’Hara starts the narrative in media res, and then, when our attention has been seized by the collar, backs up and explains things (very deftly) while building up momentum towards the revelation of secrets we just almost guessed and, even though we see where it all must lead in the end, we read on in apt fascination.

highly recommended!

O’Hara was highly praised for his short stories especially; I’ll have to go read them all now :D

see further commentary here: http://miasbooklist.blogspot.com/2007/06/more-on-rage-to-live-by-john-ohara.html ( )
2 vote moiraji | Feb 21, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John O'Haraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vivante, CesareTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On his tombstone in New Jersey in the Princeton Cemetery: 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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Am Mittwoch, dem vierten Juli 1817, regnete es morgens, und das Festkomitee trat zusammen, um darüber zu beraten, ob man das Fest nicht lieber auf den Sonnabend verschieben sollte, auch wenn der vierte Juli in diesem Jahr auf einen Mittwoch fiel.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812971353, Paperback)

A momentous bestseller when it was first published in 1949, John O’Hara’s sprawling novel A Rage to Live offers up a gorgeous pageant of idealists and libertines, tradesmen and crusaders, men of violence and goodwill, and women of fierce strength and tenderness. These memorable characters and their vital stories add up to a large-scale social chronicle of America, in what is perhaps the most ambitious work of O’Hara’s career.

“The range of O’Hara’s knowledge of how Americans live was incomparably greater than that of any other ?ction writer of his time,” judged The New Yorker. “One would have to go back to Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, and Theodore Dreiser to ?nd a novelist who had even the intention of acquiring knowledge on the scale that O’Hara acquired it.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:39 -0400)

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