Books: You Can Go Home Again

THE HAT ON THE BED by John O'Hara. 405 pages. Random House. $5.95.

John O'Hara has for so long been the acknowledged master craftsman of U.S. short story writers that whatever new peaks of performance he hits are unlikely to stir much surprise. This is a pity because in recent years, as his novels get worse and worse, his stories have been getting better and better. In an astonishing output—four volumes since 1960—of brief encounters and broader recollections, his writing has moved way beyond the burled walnut finish and the chromium-plated dialogue that have made him famous.

The Open Door. The ear is...

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