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John O'Hara's "Pal Joey" Stories

Filed under: Little Words   Tagged: , ,

Benjamin Chambers writes:

John O’Hara’s one of those writers I’ve always meant to read and haven’t. Last January, The New Yorker did a great podcast featuring a story of his, “Graven Image,” read by E. L. Doctorow, that made me want to read more. A wonderful guide to his “Pal Joey” stories, the basis of a musical even I’ve heard of, has just been made available over at “The John O’Hara Society” blog. Check it out and let me know what you think.


One of the best songs in the musical: “Plant You Now, Dig You Later.” The whole show is full of double entendres that mystified me as a child.

Ha, look, the song title was a New Yorker headline in 1945—guess that proves how many people knew the soundtrack! (Or knew the score, as it were.) It’s a John Bainbridge Profile about Reader’s Digest’s DeWitt Wallace. According to the abstract, Bainbridge “tells how the Digest got into the business of manufacturing articles instead of reprinting from other publications. Describes the process of planting articles with publications then reprinting them.”

And look, it’s Gene Kelly dancing (briefly but smashingly) in Pal Joey on Broadway!

I don’t think I knew that Pal Joey is based on O’Hara. I did know that Butterfield 8 is.

The only O’Hara I’ve read is Appointment in Samarra, which bears some resemblance to Mad Men (and Revolutionary Road) despite being written a generation earlier than the setting of those two (1934). It’s pretty good! I don’t know if I’d put it on the list of 100 greatest novels between 1923 and 2005 (what an odd category), but I probably prefer it to RR, anyway (which also makes the list).

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