One of Time’s All-Time 100 Best Novels
The writer whom Fran Lebowitz called “the real F. Scott Fitzgerald” makes his Penguin Classics debut with this beautiful deluxe edition of his best-loved book.
One of the great novels of small-town American life, Appointment in Samarra is John O’Hara’s crowning achievement. In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction.
Brimming with wealth and privilege, jealousy and infidelity, O’Hara’s iconic first novel is an unflinching look at the dark side of the American dream—and a lasting testament to the keen social intelligence if a major American writer.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
About the Author
John O’Hara (1905–1970) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Championed by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Dorothy Parker, he wrote seventeen novels, including Appointment in Samarra, his first; BUtterfield 8, which was made into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor; Pal Joey, which was adapted into a Broadway musical as well as a film starring Frank Sinatra; and Ten North Frederick, which won the National Book Award. He has had more stories published in The New Yorker than anyone else in the history of the magazine. Born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, he lived for many years in New York and in Princeton, New Jersey, where he died.
Charles McGrath (introducer) is the former editor of The New York Times Book Review and former deputy editor of The New Yorker. He is currently a writer at large for The New York Times.
Neil Gower (cover illustrator) is an internationally acclaimed graphic artist. He spent ten years as a contributing artist to Condé Nast Traveler and has provided art for major publishing houses and for such magazines as The New Yorker, The Economist, and Vanity Fair. He lives in Sussex, England.
“John Updike did it later, but I actually think John O’Hara did it better—dissecting the country club set, the ways everyone interacts with each other, their sex lives and the way men cheat. I can’t think of when I’ve read a book and thought it had such a modern feeling to what he chooses to say about marriage.” —Delia Ephron, The Wall Street Journal
“With a dazzling new cover and smart new introduction, one of my favorite novels, Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara, is reborn. . . . This novel about class, drinking and sex is fun—and incredibly smart.” —Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
“[A] gorgeous new edition . . . Appointment in Samarra still astonishes and amazes; and [O’Hara’s] style and themes—a bridge, if you will, between F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Updike—remain painfully and beautifully relevant today.” —Huffington Post
“Suspenseful, character-driven—it deserves to be read more.” —Joshua Ferris, Details
“Transfixing . . . A Jazz Age novel set amidst the early throes of the Depression . . . A striking antidote to contemporary novels like Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts and Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, which remain startling for their implacably cynical view of humanity. O’Hara offers a more nuanced, and more subversive view of the national mood at the cusp of the Depression.” —Nathaniel Rich, The Daily Beast
“Nobody who’s read it ever forgets Appointment in Samarra.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“An attractive new edition of Samarra, with deckled edges and a jazzy cover.” —The Philadelphia Review of Books
“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra.” —Ernest Hemingway
“Appointment in Samarra lives frighteningly in the mind.” —John Updike
“It is alive with compelling characters and O’Hara’s dead-on dialogue and sharp observations.” —Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row
“[O’Hara] was as acute a social observer as Fitzgerald, as spare a stylist as Hemingway, and in his creation of Gibbsville, in western Pennsylvania, he invented a kind of small-bore variation on Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.” —Los Angeles Times
“An author I love is John O’Hara. . . . I think he’s been forgotten by time, but for dialogue lovers, he’s a goldmine of inspiration.” —Douglas Coupland, Shelf Awareness
“O’Hara was one of Mom’s favorite authors. . . . ‘So I finally read Appointment in Samarra,’ I told her. ‘I'd always thought that book had something to do with Iraq.’ . . . ‘It does apply to Iraq, even if that’s not at all what it’s about. It’s a book about setting things in motion and then being too proud and stubborn to apologize and to change course.’ ” —from The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe