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I picked this book up because, like Ada Calhoun, and her father, Peter Schjeldahl, I love Frank O'Hara's poems. As I hoped and expected it would, Also a Poet delivered wonderful anecdotes about O'Hara and his milieu that I hadn't previously heard. I was surprised and delighted to be just as invested in Calhoun's focus on her complex relationship with her father, writing, gender, and art. Also a Poet charmed and moved me. I'll be revisiting Frank O'Hara, and seeking out Calhoun's earlier books. Recommended By Adam P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Fascinating...A wonderfully convoluted, catty, candid, and clever piece of work." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Mesmerizing....As [Calhoun] 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….It's a dazzling thing to behold." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"In this fluidly morphing, magnetically candid chronicle....Calhoun offers an arresting and provocative carousel of family dynamics, creative paradoxes, literary history, unnerving dilemmas, thorny questions of inheritance and legacy, wry humor, and love." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Deeply moving and exceptionally well written, this offbeat memoir will please anyone interested in the NYC art scene from the 1950s on. Every father should have a daughter as loving, perceptive and honest as Calhoun." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Also a Poet covers turf that is delicate, fought-over, and sacred. What poet is not one complicated creature? Whose father is not a confounding mystery to a daughter? What era of New York was not a fevered, fervent time? Let Ada Calhoun be our guide through all, but hold her hand tight--the journey is wild!" Tom Hanks, New York Times-bestselling author of Uncommon Type
"Also A Poet contains multitudes...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 Calhoun's fraught but fruitful relationship with her father, who put his art above all else. This extraordinary book, full of wisdom, beauty, and generosity of spirit, proves that we can be 'good' and also great." Susannah Cahalan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Great Pretender
"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
"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
About the Author
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.