I liked this book so damn much. It's a memoir, but it's also a biography and a social history. Also a Poet is Ada Calhoun's very personal investigation of her father, the art critic Peter Schjeldahl, by way of his relationship to the work and life of the poet John O'Hara. It's not only a true pleasure to read, it is rich with information about a literary movement with which I was only vaguely familiar, so I learned a lot. For me, that is the description of the perfect book, so... This book is perfect.— From Becky
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.