Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me
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.More About Also A Poet
“Also A Poet contains multitudes. I’ve never read anything like it. The mind boggles at how much brilliance Ada Calhoun has managed to pack into this slim volume: a celebration of one of America’s greatest poets, an ode to New York of today and yesterday, an investigation into legacy and memory, a meditation on art and writing, a humane yet fiercely candid look at the anxiety of influence, a memoir about her fraught but fruitful relationship with her father, who put his art above all else. What does it take to be a truly great artist? This extraordinary book, full of wisdom, beauty, and generosity of spirit, proves that we can be ‘good’ and also great. Here in your hands is non-fiction at its most marvelous, a book that moved me in ways that the best fiction and poetry does. I’ll sum up my feelings in a word: Exceptional.”
—Susannah Cahalan, New York Times–bestselling author of The Great Pretender
“In Ada Calhoun’s hands, this one-of-a-kind story of a mercurial father, a conflicted daughter, and the artistic idol they both share is marvelously universal — by turns touching and laugh-out-loud funny and endearing and wise. If you are interested in parents or children or New York City or poetry and art — or have ever wondered about the legacies we leave, the lives we touch, without even knowing it — then ALSO A POET offers observations and insights that you'll carry with you for a long time to come.”
—Robert Kolker, New York Times–bestselling author of Hidden Valley Road
“Through moving feats of narrative magic, Ada Calhoun tells the story of the lives of Frank O’Hara, the New York School poets and painters, her father’s, and her own, and what passes between them in this vulnerable, insightful, and, ultimately, forgiving book. Also a Poet is a marvel!”
—Jeff Deutsch, author of In Praise of Good Bookstores and director of Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Chicago
“This book is a gift to fans of Frank O'Hara, fans of downtown New York, and fans of queer history. It’s also a gift from one writer to another. The fact that that writer is a daughter paying tribute to her complicated father makes the work all the more resonant and beautiful.”
—Alysia Abbott, author of Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father
One of the Amazon Editors' best nonfiction books of 2020 and an Indie Next Pick, Why We Can’t Sleep was one of the biggest books of the season according to the New York Times, Parade, O magazine, Book Riot, Vogue.com, RealSimple.com, and Forbes.com!
Exploring her cohort's experience as the generation raised to “have it all,” Calhoun found women who were exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed. Instead of their issues being heard, they were told instead to lean in, take “me-time,” or make a chore chart. In Why We Can’t Sleep, Calhoun opens up the cultural and political contexts of Gen X’s predicament. The result is reassuring, empowering, and essential reading for all middle-aged women, and anyone who hopes to understand them.More About Why We Can't Sleep
“This is the book of our generation. Ada Calhoun brilliantly encapsulates the struggle and confusion that is the Gen X woman’s experience in middle age. And by placing this condition into the context of the generations coming before and after, she makes sense of how it is that we’re so surprised that we have failed at having it all. Heavily researched, expertly paced, and seamlessly woven together, Why We Can’t Sleep provides an ‘aha’ moment that at once validates our experience and establishes a sense of community and hope.”
—Janet Krone Kennedy, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, author of The Good Sleeper: The Essential Guide to Sleep for Your Baby (and You) and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor
“Ada Calhoun's soulful investigation into the complex landscape women in midlife face today is downright stunning. Calhoun has captured the voices—some broken, some resilient, many barely staying afloat—of over 200 women from around the country and in doing so, shown us how much we share in divisive times. You will recognize yourself in these pages, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I'm not alone.”
—Susannah Cahalan, author of the New York Times bestselling Brain on Fire
“Helping women realize that some difficulty, some confusion, is not just all in their mind is probably one of your more feminist acts, and the impressive amount of research Ada Calhoun did on the very specific forces, past and present, that are bedeviling Gen X women as they face the strange period that is midlife is just that kind of gift. But the other gift is that she writes with clear sight, compassion, and hope about our very specific talents and tenacity. Which means: this book is a thousand times more healing than a jadeite egg!”
—Carlene Bauer, author of Not That Kind of Girl and Frances and Bernard
One of the top ten memoirs of the year (W magazine), Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give shows that marriage “isn’t a happy ending, but rather an opening scene” (Times Literary Supplement). In these “warm-hearted, Ephron-esque” (Washington Post) essays inspired by her popular Modern Love column, Ada Calhoun offers a “funny” (Today Show), “insightful” (Star, “Hot Book”), “raw and relatable” (Brides) portrait of modern coupledom, “a thoughtful read for the monogamous, non-monogamous, and every relationship iteration in between” (New York). In the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book,” Tom Hanks said it was the last book to make him laugh: "I mean, underlining and yellow marker bust-out laughs." Molly Ringwald called it “the definitive meditation on marriage in all of its mystery and imperfection."More About Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give
“ONE OF THE TEN BEST MEMOIRS OF 2017…This frank collection meditates on marriage as an ever-evolving thing, one full of failure and triumph and lots of change… A hilarious relief from the 'happily ever after' narrative.”
“[A] lighthearted approach to the toils and snares of marriage… original, engrossing.”
“Raise a glass to these reality-check essays that are equal parts ode to marriage (“I adore my husband and plan to be with him forever”) and sly acknowledgement to its challenges (“I also want to run screaming from the house because he insists on falling asleep to Frasier reruns”).
—O magazine, “10 Titles to Pick Up Now,” June 2017
Ada Calhoun, who grew up on St. Marks Place, interviewed 250 past and present East Villagers for this surprising New York City history, one of the best nonfiction books of 2015 according to Kirkus, The Boston Globe, and the Village Voice.
Organizing the street’s centuries-long history around the moments when people have declared “St. Marks is dead,” this vibrant, idiosyncratic work offers what The Atlantic calls a “timely, provocative, and stylishly written” new take on urban nostalgia.More About St. Marks Is Dead
Rave reviews from across the country. “Timely, provocative, and stylishly written,” said The Atlantic. “Sophisticated…A delightful book,” wrote The Wall Street Journal. “Nuanced, captivating, and thoroughly fun,” claimed the L.A. Review of Books. Amazoncalled it a Best Book of November 2015. The New York Times Book Review called it “an ecstatic roll call,” and named it a New York Times Editors’ Pick.
One of the best books of the year — Boston Globe, 2015, which earlier in the year wrote in “Fall Suggestions”: “Calhoun makes a case for the enduring relevance and legacy of St. Marks Place, the quintessential downtown street and home to everyone from W.H. Auden to Keith Haring.” Also named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus, Orlando Weekly, and the New York Post.