Books: The Man for the Job

THE CAPE COD LIGHTER (425 pp.)—John O'Hara—Random House ($5.95).

Among the many shortcomings of literary life in the U.S. is its lack of a mean old man. There are plenty of lovable old men—Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Henry Miller—but no old curmudgeon who clubs young reporters with a tongue like a blackthorn stick and sends them scurrying back to their editors filled with terror and fine quotes. It is a grievous lack. Almost every other part of U.S. society has had such a man: the House of Representatives had its Uncle Joe Cannon, the tobacco industry its George Washington Hill, labor its...

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