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Appointment in Samarra (1934)

by John O'Hara

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,539408,580 (3.84)85
"In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville social circuit is electrified with parties and dances, where the music plays late into the night and the liquor flows freely. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English -- the envy of friends and strangers alike. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)
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English (38)  Spanish (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Quotable:

"Our story never ends.

"You pull the pin out of a hand grenade, and in a few seconds it explodes and men in a small area get killed and wounded. That makes bodies to be buried, hurt men to be treated. It makes widows and fatherless children and bereaved parents. It means pension machinery, and it makes for pacifism in some and for lasting hatred in others. Again, a man out of the danger area sees the carnage the grenade creates, and he shoots himself in the foot. Another man had been standing there just two minutes before the thing went off, and thereafter he believes in God or in a rabbit’s foot. Another man sees human brains for the first time and locks up the picture until one night years later, when he finally comes out with a description of what he saw, and the horror of his description turns his wife away from him . . ." ( )
  beautifulshell | Aug 27, 2020 |
A deeply pessimistic look at the idiocy and falsehood of American life when there was a glossy finish on the outside to hide faults, flaws, kinks, and desires. At times Julian English reminded me a little bit of J.P. Donleavy's Ginger Man, but without as much wittism or humor or nuance. Perhaps my issue is that all the characters save Julian and Caroline are simple mechanisms. The moments of self-awareness are there for the lead characters and there is some level of insight into the need to create a identity that we can not only present to the world, but also to ourselves in a coherent way. It's a sad point. While likely very true today, I imagine it was even more glaring in O'Hara's day. All told, this novel should probably be considered a minor classic of American Lit. particularly for that era. ( )
  ProfH | Jul 27, 2020 |
I missed what the title (the source of the allusion is quoted in full on a prefixing page) has to do with the story that follows. ( )
  JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
Short, gripping novel about a self-destructive, wealthy young man set over three days around Christmas 1930. Great dialogue and powerful treatment of class, self-destructiveness, inevitability of loss, suffocating social norms... O'Hara was apparently writing about his own home town, social circle, alcoholism, father and marriage, among other things.

O'Hara thought that he deserved a Nobel Prize and compared himself to Fitzgerald and Hemingway. (Apparently he could be an ass.). He would have felt vindicated by Modern Library's selection of AiS as one of the top 25 novels of the past century, but as much as I enjoyed it, and would recommend it, I don't think it's quite in that class.

Interesting note: there are Irish gangsters in the novel, and someone else on Goodreads makes a case that AiS influenced the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing, which is a great movie. ( )
1 vote Robert_Musil | Dec 15, 2019 |
John O'Hara story of a guy's descent into misery and ultimately suicide in the upper crust of a mid-sized town-city in pre-world war.
Bit of a potboiler but well written and engaging.
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
O'Hara, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maurer, AlfredCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McGrath, CharlesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schab, Karin vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Our story opens in the mind of Luther L. (L. for LeRoy) Fliegler, who is lying in his bed, not thinking of anything, but just aware of sounds, conscious of his own breathing, and sensitive to his own heartbeats.
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"In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville social circuit is electrified with parties and dances, where the music plays late into the night and the liquor flows freely. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English -- the envy of friends and strangers alike. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction"--P. [4] of cover.

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