dent with a vendetta against R.J.rnReynolds and other free enterprisers. Myrnpurpose is not yet apparent to me, butrnhas something to do with history andrnpolitics. I am addicted to historical nonfictionrnand neglect housework and otherrnresponsibilities to read. And since I quitrnsmoking, I have come out of the closet. Irnam now proud to call myself a conservative.rnThere is no correlation that I canrnsee between not smoking and becomingrna conservative. Discovering my true politicalrnnature was simply a matter of time.rnQuitting smoking just coincided withrnmy emergence as a meanspirited rightwingerrnwho thinks the tobacco companiesrnshould be left alone even if it isrntrendy to pick on these evil corporate interests.rnInevitably, my traditional conservativerninclinations hidden all these yearsrnhave surfaced because I have grown olderrnand wiser and have actually taken arnmoment to read the Constitution. As itrnturns out, 1 was destined to give uprnsophomoric liberal views along with myrnother bad habit. I am glad on bothrncounts because life gets interesting afterrnyou go cold turkey.rn]oyce L. Bennett writes from Leonardtown,rnMaryland.rnLITERATURErnJohn O’Hararnand AmericanrnConservatismrnby Ralph de ToledanornIn 1941, Edmund Wilson published arnsmall book of pieces about severalrncontemporary writers, tied together underrnthe tide. The Boys in the Back Room.rnIt was a typical Wilsonian production—rninsightful, wrongheaded, and regal—rnsynthesizing as “Hollywood writers”rnJames M. Cain, William Saroyan, JohnrnSteinbeck, and others now forgotten,rnalong with John O’Hara. That this linkagernwas gratuitous and artificial wasrnbased almost exclusively on the singlernfact that these writers had spent somerntime moiling in the Hollywood studios.rnOnly Cain had any significant relationshiprnwith films and their makers, andrnJohn O’Hara very litde, though two novels,rnHope of Heaven and The Big Laugh,rndealt with the Hollywood scene. To sorncategorize him was equivalent to callingrnErnest Hemingway a Spanish productrnbecause of For Whom the Bell Tolls orrnthe scenes in Spain in The Sun AlsornRises.rnJohn O’Hara’s intellectual and emotionalrnroots were East Coast throughout.rnHe had been a newspaperman in NewrnYork, his short stories appeared mostly inrnthe New Yorker, and the locale of his writingsrnranged from Gibbsville, the Pennsylvaniarncity he created, to the Ivy Leaguerncolleges, to a New York milieu—withrntheir polloi/aristoi, their sights andrnsounds and smells. He was a jazz buff,rnbut of the strictly Eastern conviction—rnthat is, of the jazz that thrived in Manhattan’srnboites.rnO’Hara burst on the literary scenernwith Appointment in Samarra, a novelrnwhich had the editing of Charles A.rnPearce at Harcourt, Brace—the bestrnO’Hara ever received because it was sornlight the pencil never appeared. Therncharge of “Hemingway influence” wasrnimmediately made by the critics—truernonly insofar as any serious novelist at therntime paid a debt to Hemingway. Thatrninfluence was only to a very small degreernstylistic. For Hemingway was, for all hisrn”realism” and occasional brutality, a romanticrn—involved with his plots and hisrncharacters, living and suffering withrnthem. His romanticism, particulady inrnhis view of women, was basically adolescent,rnas were his political views. ForrnHemingway, an orgasm could make thernearth shake, whereas O’Hara could writernof sex that “it’s better with your shoesrnoff.”rnThe Hemingway influence, seemingly,rnwas to write it clean—what madernO’Hara turn away from Proust as “heavy,rndull, overrated, and sometimes ludicrous,”rna judgment he might have temperedrnhad he read the Temps Perdu inrnFrench. But with the publication of Butterfieldrn8, O’Hara’s second novel, no onerncould reasonably mark him as Hemingwayan.rnThe novels that followed ratifiedrnthis point. And the disparity in stylesrnand approach was even greater in thernshort stories. For nowhere did O’Hararndisplay Hemingway’s call on machismo,rnthe in-turned emotionalism, or the compulsionrnto muscle-flexing. O’Hara hadrnthe highest respect for Hemingway as arnwriter, though not so much as a person,rnbut that respect did not move him intornHemingway’s genre.rnO’Hara was always an observer and arndepicter—aloof, sometimes slightly superior,rnand seldom judgmental in probingrnthe social and cultural scene and thernmotivation, speech, and attitude of thosernon whom he focused. There is almost nornrelationship between the violence andrnhigh drama of Hemingway’s world andrnO’Hara’s upwardly and downwardly mobilernmiddle-class with its upper-class pretensions.rnHe wrote with an objectivityrnand irony in its classical definition thatrnyou find in Balzac—and his novels, shortrnstories, and other pieces are a continuousrnflow of an America-style comedie humaine,rnakin to Balzac’s gallic oeuyre. Nornsingle O’Hara novel or short story can bernjudged alone. They are all part of arngestalt, a broader and inclusive picturernand hard to sort out—Ten North Frederick,rnA Rage to Live (which it was said hernwrote as a vehicle for Joan Crawford),rnThe Lockwood Concern, or From thernTerrace.rn”I write fast, and do not rewrite, sornwhy pretend,” he wrote in a letter—andrnthe collection of his letters which wasrnpublished in 1978 is a far better guide tornhis thinking and his achievement thanrnanything written by his critics. But thisrnwas not an accurate statement, for JohnrnO’Hara was one of those writers who editsrnas he goes along, emending, modifying,rnand deleting—a gift bestowed onrnthe better newspaper-trained writers. Hernhad a sense of typography, of blockingrnout a paragraph so that it would make hisrnpoint without directional arrows. Andrnhe was a master of indirect character delineation.rnOf a character in A Rage tornLive, one of his more extended and allegedlyrn”commercial” novels, he couldrnwrite with justice, “At no time do I, thernnovelist, enter her mind. At no time amrnI the omniscient, ubiquitous novelist.rnThe God.” That takes a high form ofrncraftsmanship.rnFor those of us who have had the fortunernor misfortune of being writers—rnwriters as more than those who sit downrnat the typewriter to turn out a best-sellerrnand win a Pulitzer—^John O’Hara movesrnus as one who never took his metier forrngranted. He was a serieux who not onlyrnworked at his craft but examined both itrnand himself a tout vent. Edmund Wilsonrnand others hold forth on O’Hara’srnway of inserting long passages into, say,rnAppointment in Samarra or Hope ofrnHeaven about a minor character whornFEBRUARY 1997/47rnrnrn