Cover of Also A Poet

Also A Poet

Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Me

Ada Calhoun

t times, Ada Calhoun’s voice comes across as maybe a little too raw, the frankness veering towards uncharitableness or even hostility towards her subject. But that unvarnished intimacy, when the subject is your own father (renowned art critic and writer Peter Schjeldahl), the working through of this perspective and its explanation is definitely part of the narrative arc. Calhoun finds boxes of taped interviews for her father’s abandoned biography of poet Frank O’Hara, and her attempt to finish what he started is both sincere and hubristic. This is like Wild, with the midcentury Greenwich Village scene playing the role of Pacific Crest Trail: a fascinating but ultimately circumstantial backdrop for a journey of self-discovery. Lots of good storytelling, irresistible tidbits of a notorious artistic milieu, and some fine writing here, as Calhoun celebrates a reverence for great writing and what it does to the lives of those who have to live with those who create it. Riveting.

Book Info

Grove Press (2023)
ISBN/EAN Product Code
Publisher Description

A staggering memoir from New York Times-bestselling author Ada Calhoun tracing her fraught relationship with her father and their shared obsession with a great poet When Ada Calhoun stumbled upon old cassette tapes of interviews her father, celebrated art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had conducted for his never-completed biography of poet Frank O’Hara, she set out to finish the book her father had started forty years earlier. As a lifelong O’Hara fan who grew up amid his bohemian cohort in the East Village, Calhoun thought the project would be easy, even fun, but the deeper she dove, the more she had to face not just O’Hara’s past, but also her father’s, and her own. The result is a groundbreaking and kaleidoscopic memoir that weaves compelling literary history with a moving, honest, and tender story of a complicated father-daughter bond. Also a Poet explores what happens when we want to do better than our parents, yet fear what that might cost us; when we seek their approval, yet mistrust it. In reckoning with her unique heritage, as well as providing new insights into the life of one of our most important poets, Calhoun offers a brave and hopeful meditation on parents and children, artistic ambition, and the complexities of what we leave behind. (Publisher’s Description)

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