Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is Anyone Going to be John O'Hara?

Does anyone even remember who he was?

While we are enamored of Richard Ford's sports writers and Richard Russo's upstate ne'er do wells, we wonder whether anyone is doing now what John O'Hara did for mundane Americans between 1930 and 1970. Some may recall that he was known as a "frank realist" in those days. I am not old enough to recall that personally but I've seen the paperbacks with their bold-print claims. Americans were more easily "shocked" then and my point is not to resurrect his sense of boundaries.

What I am wondering is, will anyone tell us what happens to lovers in cars on snowbound country roads late at night? Can there ever be a market again for his signature type of story: a few thousand words about a bank president unhappy that one of his tellers has taken to wearing loafers?

He wrote hundreds of these, it seems: extended vignettes about painfully ordinary folks, detailing with cold precision their inelegance and illuminating their generally unhappy fates.

I am not saying no one is doing it, or that no one can do it. I am just saying I don't know who they are and that I wish to.