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John O’ Hara on Criticism

John O’Hara at work in his study in Connecticut, 1960s

John O’ Hara was a short story writer and novelist; I think he’s generally much better as a creator of short stories than novels. His first novel, Appointment in Samarra (1934) is one of his finest sustained pieces; but I really love his short stories, which I’ve read countless times, and which O’Hara collected in a number of volumes after they were first published in The New Yorker. And, of course, many of his novels were made into films, most notably Daniel Mann’s version of O’Hara’s novel BUtterfield 8 (1960).

But I’m criticizing!

And here’s what O’Hara had to say on that:

“The only reply to the critics is, curiously, the same reply to the hostile and to the friendly. It is work. Do anything – a play, a short story, another novel – but be doing something. I am not so sure that amor vincit omnia, but work keeps us going. It is a reply and an answer.”

– John O’Hara in a letter to John Hersey, January 21, 1965.

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About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him or his website,

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