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Appointment in Samarra (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143107070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143107071
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“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
“Nobody who’s read it ever forgets Appointment in Samarra.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“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

From the Back Cover

“Exceptionally brilliant.” —New York Herald Tribune

“[O'Hara] is the only American writer to whom America presents itself as a social scene in the way it once presented itself to Henry James, or France to Proust.” —Lionel Trilling, The New York Times

“Dramatic . . . exciting . . . vivid and written at high speed . . . accurate and often penetrating.” —The Nation

“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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Granted, this is a good book.
John Cullom
He is assured of what he wants of his characters and his prose, therefore his writing reads like an experienced writer who leaves readers breathless.
A. T. A. Oliveira
For what it's worth, I ordered four more O'Hara titles immediately after finishing this book.
John M. Lemon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 97 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Cartwright on October 16, 2002
Format: Library Binding
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, C.S.Lewis, John Cheever. If any one of these authors was ever important to you, please pick up O'Hara. He's critical to understanding twentieth century American authors. At the very least, you can engage in the unending debate on whether he's worthy of joining this pantheon of writers. Worthy of an airport paperback rack? Smalltime trashy romance writer? Or do you think he paints a richly textured canvas of an America and its high society about to be turn the corner on the first half of the 20th century? An important Irish-Catholic writer?
My tip: read this book. If nothing else you'll learn about bituminous and anthracitic coal, the United Mine Workers, how to mix a martini, (and throw one), why fraternities were ever important, and what a flivver was. It's certainly a period piece, and O'Hara does not hold back with the language of the jazz age...which may confuse modern readers (it was a gay party, his chains dropped a link, etc.) In fact, O'Hara was an early adopter of using slang and vernacular in writing the spoken word, and you can be the judge of whether or not he gets an Irish mobster's (or a "high hat's") tone correctly.
He's really at his best with character development, because Julian English (our protaganist) is our bigoted confidante, our tiresome spouse, our wretched boss, our surly neighbor, our spoiled college-boy brat, our pretentious friend and our preening big man about town all in one. O'Hara waltzes us through Julian's demise and we root for him, for one more chance, all the way down.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By brewster22 on August 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
It would be easy to dismiss "Appointment in Samarra" as insignificant when compared to other, more well known literature. It's certainly a quick, entertaining read, very funny at times, with a loose, somewhat disjointed quality that gives the whole novel a strange tone. Separate events and characters are introduced that don't seem to have any obvious relation to one another, and at the book's end, they still don't. However, as a time capsule of a specific place and time in American cultural history, it's very well done and fascinating to read.
At its basic level, "Samarra" inserts a stick of dynamite into the safe, complacent world of affluent, East coast snobbery by introducing into it an influx of immigrants and "new" money. The WASP environment of cocktail parties, Ivy League schools and country clubs couldn't be sheltered forever from European emigres, specifically Jews, with money of their own. I don't want to give anything of the plot away, but I will say that there is a tragedy in this book, and the ripples it sends through the rich community that serves as the focus of this novel's story are meant to signify the larger ripples affecting American culture on a much greater scale as the heady days of the Roaring 20's give way to the more sombre and politically aware days of the 30's and 40's.
I'm not completely sure what to make of a side story involving some petty mobsters, but I assume their intrusion into the fabric of this East coast society is meant as yet one more example of the loss of security from which these people felt by rights they would be sheltered.
There is no reason not to read "Appointment in Samarra." It won't take up much of your time, and I promise you won't ever be bored by it. Whether you'll find it profound or especially memorable is another story. I didn't particularly find it either, but I would recommend it nonetheless.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Gregory N. Hullender on April 29, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The title comes from a tale attributed to Somerset Maugham (reprinted just in front of the first page of my edition). As story goes, the servant of a merchant in Baghdad sees Death in the marketplace, is sure she's coming for him, and asks permission to go hide from her in the town of Samarra. The merchant agrees, but then goes to the marketplace himself to have some words with Death about how she treated his servant. (I wish I had a boss like that!) Death denies having threatened the man, "I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
From the very beginning, then, we know that the novel concerns someone with an inevitable appointment with Death which he/she cannot escape. Within a few pages, we even know who. Only the particulars remain - or so it would seem.
Julian English does make his appointment with Death, but the author deliberately destroys the impression of inevitability he spent most of the novel creating. Up to the very end, we believe that Julian's impulsive act of throwing a drink into the face of Harry Reilly, his most important creditor, sealed his fate. We, together with Julian, believe that his alienating Reilly leads inevitably to Julian's financial ruin, and, seeing no way out, Julian commits a series of ever more self-destructive acts culminating in his suicide.
And then we learn that Harry Reilly attached no significance to the thrown drink and that he liked Julian all along. Julian's death was not inevitable after all. Also, far from trying to flee his fate, Julian rushes headlong into it, leading one to conclude that Julian isn't the one with the appointment in Samarra after all.
At first that seems absurd - Julian is the central character of the novel, after all.
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