Members' Room: Ada Calhoun, Also a Poet: Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Me
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Also a Poet is 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. The New York Times Book Review calls it “a grand slam of a new memoir…packaged as a love triangle: father, daughter and O’Hara. It’s actually a tetrahedron from which all kinds of creative characters pop forth. It’s a big valentine to New York City past and present, and a contribution to literary scholarship, molten with soul.”
Ada Calhoun is the New York Times bestselling author of St. Marks Is Dead, Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give, and Why We Can't Sleep. She has written for the New York Times, the New Republic, and the Washington Post. Author photo by Laurel Golio.
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