Also a Poet: Starred Publishers Weekly Review!

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PW says...

[STARRED REVIEW] A quest to capture the life of poet Frank O’Hara prompts a sweeping investigation of familial bonds in this mesmerizing work from journalist Calhoun (Why We Can’t Sleep). When, in 2018, Calhoun discovered a trove of cassette tape interviews that her father, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, recorded in the 1970s for an authorized biography of O’Hara that went unfinished, she set out to resurrect the project. What follows is less a straightforward chronicle of one misunderstood genius’s life, and more a prismatic account about “writing and books and Frank O’Hara,” three interests that tie Calhoun to her vexing yet fascinating father, a brilliant writer, erstwhile bohemian poet, and disinterested dad whose “flashes of affection” she sought throughout her life like a drug: “I mimicked my father’s O’Hara reverence the way a boy learns how to shave from watching his father’s face in the bathroom mirror.” As she attempts to course-correct Schjeldahl’s shortcomings—which she details at length (in the book and to his face)—she crafts a masterpiece entirely her own, tapping into the “perpetual wonder” that imbued O’Hara with an “enlightened, saintlike quality” to radiantly explore her knotty relationship with her father, “the saddest part of my childhood and the greatest gift of my life.” It’s a dazzling thing to behold. (June)