Also a Poet
Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Meby Ada Calhoun
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
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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)
“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
“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
“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
One of Vogue’s “Best Books to Read this Winter”
One of the 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2020 by Forbes
One of Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
“Candid and engaging. [Calhoun] is a funny, smart, compassionate narrator… I admired her insistence on taking women’s concerns seriously.”—New York Times Book Review
“An engaging hybrid of first-person confession, reportage, pop culture analysis, and statistics…It aspires to something larger than memoir.”—The New Republic
“Calhoun speaks directly to her own generation, peppering the book with so many specific cultural touchstones… that I found reading Why We Can’t Sleep to be a singular experience — driving home her point that Gen X is so often overlooked.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A superb mix of personal stories and deep research about a generation of women who are facing unprecedented pressure as they enter middle age. It’s at once realistic, but positive, asking women to face up to reality, let go of expectations, find a support system and accept this stage isn’t forever.”—Huffington Post
“Marriage implosions, rising debt, and a constant sense of failure pop up throughout this brief but potent and sometimes funny book… Why We Can’t Sleep might do much to let readers like the women Calhoun writes about that they are not alone.”—Literary Hub
“[A] Bracing, empowering study… Women of every generation will find much to relate to in this humorous yet pragmatic account.”―Publishers Weekly
“Calhoun’s latest will be useful for those interested in feminist theory, especially insofar as it intersects with age and class, as well as a useful resource for people struggling to find balance in their personal and professional lives.”―Library Journal (starred review)
“This is a conversation starter (as well as a no-brainer for book groups that count Gen X women among their members) that might get Boomer and Millennial readers curious, too.”—Booklist
“Ada Calhoun provides a thoughtful, incisive account of the myriad challenges facing Generation X women.”—Shelf Awareness