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Appointment in Samarra

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 10, 2004

In Reply to: Appointment in Samarra posted by ESC on October 08, 2004

: Getting Junior's Goat

: Published: October 7, 2004
: New York Times
: ow strange that George W. Bush had his appointment in Samarra: his commanders taking a stand against the relentless Iraqi insurgents, trying once more to turn the corner in a war with endless corners.

: Mr. Bush is reminiscent of the protagonist of "Appointment in Samarra," by John O'Hara - Julian English, the son of a WASP-y, aristocratic, renowned, ineffectual father. Julian's pals were "the spenders and drinkers and socially secure, who could thumb their noses and not have to answer to anyone except their own families."

: Bristling with filial tension and nurturing the chip on his privileged shoulder, the son refuses to follow in the proper father's footsteps and instead engages in, as John Updike put it, "impulsive bellicosity," falling into a self-destructive spiral that starts when he throws a drink into an ally's face at the club.

: O'Hara prefaced the novel, his most brilliant, with a quotation from Somerset Maugham about the futility of using a reverse playbook to avoid your fate: The servant of a Baghdad merchant runs into Death at the marketplace and gallops off as fast as he can to Samarra, thinking Death will not find him. But, it turns out, their appointment is not for Baghdad on that day, but for Samarra that night...

: 2004/10/07/opinion/07dowd.html
: Accessed Oct. 7, 2004

Maureen Dowd and I (and a few thousand other people) had the same idea when we heard about Bush's Appointment in Samarra. We immediately thought of O'Hara's novel. I was a tiny bit surprised that she had read it, since O'Hara's name is not exactly a byword these days. She also knew that it was considered the best of O'Hara's many novels (which include also Ten North Frederick and Butterfield 8). The novel was published in 1934, and is surprisingly undated in tone, making allowance for the different time and place. SS

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