A novel by John O'Hara, first published in 1935.

In June, 1931, the well-dressed corpse of a beautiful young woman washed up on the shore of Long Island. Headlines screamed for weeks about the death - murder? suicide? accident? - of the young woman, soon handily discovered to be Starr Faithfull, for what better name to splash across the front page of newspapers, coupled with sensationalist talk of political figures being sought in connection with her sad demise. Though the lurid headlines suggested foul play and charges eventually being laid, nothing came of it, and the cause of the young woman's death remained a mystery.

Small wonder that O'Hara, prolific short story writer and frequent contributor to The New Yorker magazine, seized upon this sketchy story and turned it into a story of a troubled young woman in New York. In his roman à clef, the young woman is Gloria Wandrous, who wakes in the first paragraph of the book and is instantly "dumped into despair". It is the Depression, and Gloria has no job; she lives with her mother and uncle but wakes this morning in a strange man's home. Her dress is ruined, ripped down the front by a man - Weston Liggett - the night before. Liggett has left already, and after Gloria showers, she steals his wife's mink coat and goes to visit her only true friend, Eddie Brunner.

O'Hara's great skill, much admired by fellow authors such as Ernest Hemingway (who wrote of this novel: "A man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well"), is to present a realistic picture of the aspiring poor and the slumming rich. Their worlds collide, in this novel at least, in speakeasies in Depression-era, Prohibition-strapped New York. Gloria is a depressed young woman never recovered from a childhood sexual molestation, given to drink and drugs and sleeping with strangers (pretty scandalous subject matter at the time). Liggett is a boorish drunk who married well and now flounders into love - or lust - with Gloria, who returns the sentiment in her own warped fashion. The lovers careen drunkenly through a landscape peopled by corrupt cops, poverty-stricken artists, and suffering - or oblivious - relatives: it's a grim slice of life set in a difficult time that must inevitably end with a young woman's senseless death.

The novel was made into a movie in 1960 starring Elizabeth Taylor; it earned the actress her first Academy Award. I haven't seen it; it sounds rather maudlin and is almost universallly reviled, but apparently Taylor is mesmerizing and deserving of her Oscar.

The title of the novel, with its unusual spelling, is an adaptation of an ad, reproduced in a small box on the cover page under the title, which reads as follows:

Starting on December 16, a distinguishing numeral will be added to, and become part of each central office name in New York City.

For example:
HAnover will become HAnover 2.

(From an advertisment of the New York Telephone Company, December 8, 1930.)


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