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City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara Paperback – June 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 532 pages
  • Publisher: Perennial (June 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060976136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976132
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Short story writer and poet Gooch has written a fine and lively biography of O'Hara, who was killed at the age of 40 in 1966 by a speeding Jeep on the beach at Fire Island after living through the whirlwind of artistic and bohemian life in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Grafton, Mass., O'Hara left his strict Catholic father and alcoholic mother for the Navy before matriculating at Harvard and venturing to the University of Michigan. Gooch paints the everyday details of O'Hara's life--he was a published poet, a critic for ArtNews and a curator at the Museum of Modern Art --with friendly and specific strokes. His career, loves and influences in New York City are all here: correspondence with John Ashbery about William Carlos Williams; posing nude while employed at MOMA; angry bouts with abstract painter Grace Hartigan, etc. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Gooch offers a lengthy first biography of Frank O'Hara, the New York School poet of the Fifties and Sixties who espoused the Abstract Expressionism that gave way to Pop Art. Born of a Massachusetts Irish Catholic family, O'Hara contemplated music as a career but, after serving in the navy and attending Harvard, he decided on poetry. He did graduate work at the University of Michigan, then came to New York and became a poet, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and critic for ArtNews. He assisted many avant-garde poets and painters; his multimedia outlook marks much of his poetry. This well-researched book is generously garnished both with samples of his work and his homosexual attachments and details his struggle with alcohol. Tragically, O'Hara was struck and killed by a car in 1966, at the age of 40. Recommended for general and special collections.
- Kenneth Mintz, Hoboken P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Brad Gooch is the author of the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet, as well as Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography, along with other nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By I. Sondel VINE VOICE on August 16, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This happens to be one of those heavy biographies that for better or worse include everything the author ever found out about his subject, much of which isn't worth recording. Biographers should learn that just because something's a fact doesn't make it interesting. Having said that, this book isn't without its virtues. I found the passages dealing with his interaction with artists and co-workers informative. It was very interesting to discover that O'Hara's college roommate was Edward Gorey - what an odd couple. Also, the details of O'Hara serving as Cecil Beaton's secretary were enjoyable. I did learn some things about O'Hara's sexual adventures that made me cringe (having lived through the plague years my view is compromised). Mr. Gooch has written a book full of facts and trivia - it's certainly a worthwhile chronicle of O'Hara's life. If you're looking for a more intimate portrait I recommend "Digression On Some Poems By Frank O'Hara," for a more academic look at his work look for "Poet Among Painters."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
City Poet goes past the Frank O'Hara that readers get to know so well through his poetry. If you have read and enjoyed O'Hara's work, this book gives you the biographical background to bring your appreciation full circle. It is no quick read, but it allows you to appreciate the man behind the words through meticulous interviews with everyone who knew him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Privacy, Please on December 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm not a poetry scholar, and I actually found out about O'Hara through Jim Carroll, the late punk poet who admired "Lunch Poems" for their accessibility and followed O'Hara home one day three weeks before his death. Since O'Hara was well before the punk era and indeed, didn't even seem to be in the pantheon of beat poets, I was curious about him and picked up a copy of this biography when I came across it secondhand. It is a very thick, dense read but the density comes from a meticulous examination of details of O'Hara's life and times, not from scholarly analysis of his poetry (which does seem to have been written on the fly more often than not - but I'm the type who doesn't see anything wrong with that approach) nor from the length of his life. The most jarring thing about this book was to learn that O'Hara died at the young age of 40 and yet had managed to pack more interesting experiences and contacts into that short lifetime than most people cram into 75 or 80 years. While some of this no doubt stemmed from his wartime experiences, the war and the ensuing college education for veterans having exposed a generation of young men to horizons they otherwise wouldn't have had, I also got the feeling that Frank was a restless soul who would have been bored with the strictures of a conventional existence in Massachusetts and would have found some way to kick over the traces, war or no war.

O'Hara's homosexuality and his relationships with men are major themes of the book, and understandably so given the prejudice against homosexuals in the U.S. during his lifetime. To be a man openly in love with other men pretty much guaranteed you weren't going to have a "normal" life.
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