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Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-LovedBooks Paperback – July 29, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014311364X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143113645
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From Stephen King's childhood fascination with gruesome comics to the famous family name behind Peter Benchley, book-lovers and first time authors Bond and Sheedy light up some intriguing angles on many popular authors. Journalists in Australia, the authors deliver their 50 profiles with reportorial vigor, moving quickly through each profile while highlighting the salient and salacious details of, for example, the role played by Mary Shelley's literary legacy (daughter of two leading British writers) and her free-love husband (poet Percy Shelley) in the genesis of Frankenstein. Surprising words from the authors themselves adorn many profiles; said Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird, "I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers." Between the engaging information and the range of popular texts (Pride and Prejudice, The Origin of Species, The War of the Worlds, In Cold Blood, Lolita, Roots, The Cat in the Hat, The Da Vinci Code), this affectionate literary history should appeal to many readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy run the freelance journalism company The Hard Word. Their work has been published in The Sun-Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sunday Telegraph, Virgin Blue Voyeur, Woman’s Day, TV Week, FHM, and Cleo. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on September 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are many books about books. "Why Not Catch-21?" by Gary Dexter is one of them. Harold Bloom's "Novelists and Novels" is another. "Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?" is one of the most recent book about books. It is different from the others not only in style, but also in content. Some will find it fascinating to have stories like Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" discussed in the same book that discusses Jane Austen ("Pride and Prejudice") and Emily Bronte ("Jane Eyre"). The authors include the Russian heavyweights, Leo Tolstoy ("War and Peace") and Fyodor Dostoevsky ("Crime and Punishment") - they tell us that Dostoevsky's book was accepted by the publisher only because Tolstoy grew fat on his previous success and had not written anything that year, and coincidentally, Turgenev, their contemporary rival, also had nothing to publish at the time. The unconventional mix of stories - I should now add, Jacqueline Susanne's "Valley of the Dolls", Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code, and A A Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" - may discourage others. Austen, Tolstoy & Shelley ("Frankenstein") have readers; Rowling, Brown, & Susanne have fans. They might not like to catch each other reading the same book.

Secondly, this book stands out because it combines a discussion of the story and the writer in the context of its history, the writer's biography, and the reviews of the work. It is a literary "making of" book of books. Every work is a chapter and the book is divided into two main parts, "fiction" and "non-fiction". That is the third intriguing aspect of this book. In the non-fiction segment the authors talk about "Encyclopaedia Brittanica", and "Guinness World Records" as well as Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carol Widdison on January 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I like the trivia/gee whiz books that tell stories behind something. It is fun to learn about the stories behind some of the great books in our English Literature. I bought this book for my English teacher Daughter in Law who loves books more than I do. I did have to peek at the book before giving it away. It was great fun to learn the details behind the stories I have loved for years.

It gives us something more to talk about when talking about the books.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Samantha L. Sayre VINE VOICE on December 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
I love the idea of the story behind the story. I couldn't wait to get this book and even bumped it up my reading stack. However, I found it hard to get into. It takes the top 50 books written in the author's opinion and breaks them down. In the introduction, the author states what they are trying to accomplish. I found the book fell short of these goals. First, the book tells you about the author of the particular book. For instance, what is going on throughout their life and then tells you about the events in the world that are going on in that time period. Most of these sections of the chapters I enjoyed. Then it goes into why the author wrote the book. In most chapters, it's about 2 paragraphs long then the chapter will end about that particular book. I thought that the story behind the story would have more insider knowledge or more about why they wrote this particular book or even why it was so great. It doesn't. The chapters are extremely short...about 4-8 pages on average. I did like the other reading material section in the back and the book gave me information I didn't already know. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick read of facts about the world going on when these top books were written or a short biographical sketch about the author of these books.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tracey on April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
Over dinner one night, apparently, the writers of Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara? (Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy) began discussing popular books and the paths taken to their publication - and this evolved into a book about books: as the subtitle says, "The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the Best-Loved Books". It's a great idea, which is why I ordered the book from paperbackswap - there have to be hundreds of stories out there about the trials and tribulations and mutations and evolutions of hundreds of books.

Unfortunately ... three things. First, some of the writing was awful. Toward the end an essay contained two glaring typos on one two-page spread: "extracurricula activities" and a line about how someone "towed the line" (what kind of gear does it take to tow a line?). More frequently, there were sentences that ran along the lines of: "The youngest of seven children, the family moved to London that year..." That would be a case of misplaced modifier, I believe, with some comma splice thrown in? I can spot `em, but I can't name `em. It happened several times, though, and was a bit sad. I have a feeling one of the two authors wrote some entries and the other handled the rest, because some were fine, while others had iffy moments.

Secondly is that even with the minimal knowledge I had of a few of the writers, I knew most of what was considered the Fascinating Story of their lives; there was very little groundbreaking information here. For writers like Austen and Dickens and Tolkien, for three, this was a rehash of well-known anecdotes. I thought it was fairly common knowledge that A.A. Milne didn't write Pooh for his son, and that Christopher Milne hated the fame that came to him because of his namesake and the silly old bear.
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