Read The Oasis by Mary McCarthy Vivian Gornick Online


The Oasis, McCarthy's second novel, won a contest organized by Cyril Connelly, the British critic and editor of the prestigious literary magazine Horizon, and was first published as the February 1949 edition of that magazine. Connelly called the book "brilliant and true and funny and beautifully written and intelligently thought and felt." The Oasis is a wickedly satiric rThe Oasis, McCarthy's second novel, won a contest organized by Cyril Connelly, the British critic and editor of the prestigious literary magazine Horizon, and was first published as the February 1949 edition of that magazine. Connelly called the book "brilliant and true and funny and beautifully written and intelligently thought and felt." The Oasis is a wickedly satiric roman a clef about a group of urban American intellectuals who try unsuccessfully to establish a rural utopian colony just as the Cold War is setting in and fear of the atomic bomb is reaching panic proportions. At its appearance a few months later in the U.S., the novel caused a scandal, alienating a number of McCarthy's friends. One of her former lovers, the critic Philip Rahv, was so upset at the character based on him that he tried to stop its publication. At the same time, a then relatively new acquaintance who later became McCarthy's closest friend, Hannah Arendt, wrote her: "I just read The Oasis and must tell you that it was pure delight. You have written a veritable little masterpiece."...

Title : The Oasis
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781612192284
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 133 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Oasis Reviews

  • Pascale
    2019-05-06 09:28

    Everybody knows McCarthy's reputation as an ironist, but since I had never read her before, I was surprised to find that this book is quite literally a laugh a line. Maybe it's to keep it that way that she made it a novella rather than a novel. As a result, the sketching of the characters remains a bit superficial, and I got the feeling she could have done a lot more with the material. However, as it stands, "The Oasis" is a fun read with lots of great insights into the workings of utopian communities.

  • Sam
    2019-04-23 03:18

    A satire about left-wing intellectuals who set out to create a utopia in an abandoned vacation resort in New England. Amusing enough, but these characters make a soft target and thus a rather shallow critique. In the end, whatever one's political affinities may be, the characters behave and think in such a mechanical fashion that we really don't care what happens to Utopia, thus depriving the book of much of its energy.

  • Robert Wechsler
    2019-04-25 04:07

    A great little delight. This story of intellectuals who move into a sort of commune during WW2 is witty and insightful. McCarthy's prose is excellent; in fact, sometimes she sounds like Frederic Raphael (or vice versa). No great truths revealed, but a joy to read.

  • James
    2019-05-11 06:25

    Where do I start? This is not the typical book I like to read therefore the 2 star rating should not be taken too seriously. I enjoy books that excite my imagination. This book was more of an intellectual ride which I usually avoid. I save my intellect for work. The book covered an interesting subject and I am sure lots of people with higher IQs and PHDs would enjoy it more than I did.

  • Yoana
    2019-04-29 03:03

    This was a hard read, because it’s fairly theoretical, even though it’s formally a novel. Ultimately a pleasure though – it had me stop and think an idea over every couple of pages.At the dawn of the Cold War, a number of American intellectuals of different persuasions (but mostly former Marxism and anarchism fans) plus a couple of ordinary people decide to show the world and people could be better, buy an old hotel and start a colony which they call Utopia – indicating just how hard they believe their premise. Utopia starts with an embarrassment, when the future residents react with instinctive indignation at the idea of a „capitalist“ – that is, a non-intellectual businessman – applying to the colony. They immediately realise the shameful implications this reaction has for people proposing to demonstrate the true capacity of humans to be magnanimous, inclusive and peaceful, among other things. They repeat the same process later, after a few months of contented living outside civilisation which seems more concerned with the form of Utopia than the substance of it – or, as Katy, the only character who isn’t severely satirised, puts it, Utopia’s material triumphs rather than the triumph of its idea. Confronted with regular people trespassing on their territory and picking their strawberries, the colonists’ first impulse is to drive them off their property. As with the initial setback with the businessman's application, they see what their actions really say about them - they catch a glimpse of themselves in a mirror "placed at a turning point where they had expected to see daylight and freedom" - and are intensely embarrassed by this second betrayal of their inability to conquer their privileged social standing and thus, their minds, despite all their pretenses: "the middle class composition of the colony, [...], feeling itself imperiled, had acted instinctively, as an organism, to extrude the riffraff from its midst". This effectively ends the illusion and sets the wheels of dissolution in motion.The book is a scathing, exposing satire of the hollow pretensions of rich intellectuals, as McCarthy obviously saw them. The foreword says the characters were obviously based on her friends and acquaintances and she seems to have despised them – their hypocrisy, their narrow-mindedness, their intellectual complacency. She shows them as obsolete and irrelevant, people who never realised their grand ideas about transforming the world and who were, in any case, incapable of doing so. Navel-gazing, obstinately rooted in the past, when they had relevance, forever wishing to go back and tweak the circumstances so that their ideas could be realised, so they could live in a present that isn’t mocking them with the inglorious failure of their prophesies about the world and their theories of human nature. Most of the characters – and especially Will Taub, the most prominent intellectual, based on McCarthy’s lover – are petty and vindictive, more involved in proving the other faction wrong than showing the merits of their own philosophy; modifying their ideas to provide justification for their actions and habits that don’t fit with their philosophy of equality and justice. In the end, they look pathetic and sad – McCarthy shows no mercy for any of her characters. She must have been a formidable friend to have.The Oasis sounds amusingly current to me – the petty fights between the Purist and Realist factions and the comical difference between pompous intellectualising and actual scope of influence and action strongly reminds me of a few types of modern influencers. Consider this quote for example: “boredom and urban cynicism had become so natural to them that an experience from which these qualities were absent seemed to be, in some way, defective.” It’s really fun if you can suspend your sympathy and indulge in glee over other people’s moral and intellectual failures. I couldn’t find much compassion in McCarthy’s writing, but it’s not sneering, either – she’s not speaking from a place of moral superiority, which is entirely to the book’s credit.

  • Nicole
    2019-05-19 09:20

    I don't really understand Mary McCarthy. On the one hand, her memoirs, like Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, are really beautiful and well-written. Part of what's great about that experience is a genuine engagement: she seems to try and describe as well as possible, which creates understanding, at least for me. But her fiction is doing something different; her fiction seems snarky to me. I get the sense that it, too, is sometimes based on descriptions of actual people. The Oasis in particular is meant to be a roman à clef, and yet everything seems abstract and general. The people in the book work like types that demonstrate something, not like characters in a novel. Maybe I would like it better if I knew who these people were, if I knew about them from any context outside the book. As it is, it seems a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course the middle class intellectuals can't set up Utopia in the country. There's no empathy for them, but no real critique that you didn't already agree with, either. Or maybe I've just had enough of satire.

  • Myra Breckinridge
    2019-05-06 07:03

    In The Oasis, a group of intellectuals flee the dramas of modern society to live happily in "Utopia." It is a grass-is-greener novella satirizing the desire to flee dark reality for a pristine utopia, and the slow realization that this oasis is actually a mirage.As much as this is Mary McCarthy satirizing the people and dramas of her era, The Oasis is just as thoughtful and stirring today -- not just for how it challenges flights of fancy and superficial desires to expatriate, but also for its treatment of the endless variants of desire. Many of McCarthy's lines feel like they were written today -- her satire deftly pulling the veil from the way one shared desire can be achieved by many different and clashing rationales.

  • Judy
    2019-05-17 10:18

    Turgid novel - short but did not compel me so I kept picking it up, reading a dozen pages, and then setting aside. This is a satire of a post-WWII Utopian community that is flailing due to all the complexity and flaws of it members. I think McCarthy deliberately uses a hyper-intellectualized style to mock the Utopians, but that makes it less of a good read.I wouldn't reco this book, but if I were teaching a lit course, might include it on a syllabus with books covering futuristic, as well as Utopian, societies or collectives, such as Brave New World, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm & etc. This novel is obscure but might lend itself to a classroom discussion.

  • Zac Davis
    2019-05-14 02:11

    I bought this as a little gifty for a friend and thought I'd read before passing it on. Fascinating introduction - story just wasn't for me.

  • Chuck
    2019-05-19 10:10

    Great satire and superbly funny at times. ... interesting commentary on a utopian trend among American intellectuals of the period.

  • Mike Maguire
    2019-05-02 09:17

    A bit overwritten in its description of manners and morals, but quite clever and interesting as a roman a clef.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-18 07:26

    Brilliant social critique and satire on liberal intellectuals; in typical McCarthy style, she dissects her characters personalities and reveals their - often comic, often fatal - shortcomings. Made many of her old friends unhappy -- namely Philip Rahv, of the Partisan Review - for their thinly veiled appearances in this book.

  • Lawrence
    2019-05-18 03:10

    There were some great sentences, but it really didn't seem like a was just her telling us all about these people...opinions, analyses, occasional was like listening to someone ramble on and on for days....

  • Jackie
    2019-04-25 05:03

    A satire, mostly wasted on me since I didn't know the folks she mocks here. Dense writing, but some interesting insights into the futility of fixing society.