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The Ginger Man

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  7,819 Ratings  ·  416 Reviews
This is the dramatic story of J. P. Donleavy's personal struggle to create and publish a book that became a twentieth-century masterpiece: The Ginger Man. It is literary history combined with Donleavy's autobiography - from his childhood in the Bronx, education at Catholic schools, service in the U.S. Navy, and travels, to his current life as proprietor of a landed estate ...more
Paperback, 347 pages
Published August 25th 1988 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 1955)
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I'd seen The Ginger Man hanging around various bookshelves for years but avoided an actual encounter until recently. That was probably a wise intuition as I'm quite certain that Sebastian Dangerfield, the ginger man of the title, would have driven my younger self to some extreme act such as burying the book in a deep hole after the first twenty pages. But if I had done that, I’d have thrown away a collection of curious artefacts because Donleavy's book is like an archeological site of literary D ...more
Lynne King
May 29, 2013 Lynne King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-p-donleavy, fiction
Review – The Ginger Man – 28 May 2013

“When you get back Kenneth, I’ll walk naked wearing a green bowler to greet you at the boat. With a donkey cart flying green streamers and green shamrocks imported from Czechoslovakia and a band of girl pipers blowing like mad. Did you know that they imported the English sparrow into America to eat horseshit off the streets?”

Who else, but an Irish writer, and a zany one at that, could possibly have written that?

It’s interesting to know, however, that when “Th
Sep 25, 2012 Jonathan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'd hazard a guess that this is one of Shane McGowan's favourite books. Personally, I found the wife-punching, baby-smothering, lying, stealing gobshite of the title utterly charmless. Reading the reviews, however, he's apparently a delightful comic rapscallion. Perhaps this sort of thing was daring and bawdy back in the uptight 1950s.

If, like me, Dangerfield's sozzled transatlantic blarney leaves you cold, you are left with the world's most unconvincing sex-machine (with the possible exception
Aug 23, 2016 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

For all those 1 and 2 star reviewers on here who "hated" the book for its "misogyny" and the "unpleasantness" of Sebastian, I quote the following:

"He sat there elbows on his thighs hands hanging from his wrists.

Dreaming out this sunset. Tacked up on a cross and looking down. A cradle of passive, mystifying sorrow. Flooded in tears. Never be too wise to cry. Or not take these things. Take them. Keep them safely. Out of them comes love.

Miss Frost stepped from the door shyly. Her head a
Before starting this novel, it would be helpful to review two definitions:
1. Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

2. Picaresque: of or relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero.

I started reading The Ginger Man without reviewing those principles and nearly quit in disgust. Eve
Sep 11, 2014 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly enjoyed this book -- and I'm a woman. I don't know why so many people seem to be so appalled by the protagonist Sebastian Dangerfield. Sure, I don't personally agree with many of Dangerfield's actions (his often offensive behavior seems to be the sole reason as to why some people slam The Ginger Man).

I don't read literature to find examples of characters who never commit a sin, however. I read selective fiction, for the most part, to be engaged in an entertaining tale. Donleavy more tha
Jun 11, 2015 F.R. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How important is it for the reader to like the central protagonist of a novel? Obviously if one is going to spend hundreds of pages in – or around – a character’s head, then it is preferable to empathise with him or her. However there are some books, Dostoyevsky’s ‘Notes From Underground’ say, where clearly we are not supposed to like the central character and yet the passion of the prose is such that we can’t help but admire the work anyway.

These thoughts were high in my mind as I read ‘The Gin
Aug 27, 2016 Ilona rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A truly dreadful book. I quit reading on page 29 of 347, and here’s why:

From the blurb from the back cover:

“…wildly funny, picaresque classic novel of the misdaventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American ne’re-do-well….”

And this, from the fateful page 29:

“He drove his fist into Marion’s face [his wife]. She fell backward against the cupboard… In tattered underwear he stood at the nursery door. He kicked his foot through and tore off the lock to open it. Took the child’s pillow from und
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 David Lentz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
JPD launched a storied literary career with a masterpiece in The Ginger Man. Sebastian, which means "venerable," is a man perpetually on the brink of utter madness brought largely upon himself. He is a Trinity College Dublin man whose condition is given to "staving off starvation" and whose only option when things always get worse is to "cheer-up or die." When you consider that JPD was first a painter, it's understandable that his writing style is pointillistic. The syntax like Dangerfield is no ...more
Mar 26, 2013 Ensiform rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A great big stream of consciousness slice of life book about the boozing, lazy, nasty, cruel, selfish Sebastian Dangerfield, an American in Dublin who is supposed to be studying law at Trinity but instead drinks all day, chases women and exchanges abuse with his wife.

To be sure, Sebastian is an unpleasant character, but that doesn’t bother me. I was simply bored by the events of the novel. I didn’t find it, as all the blurbs promised, an exuberant, witty, wildly comic escapade. Donleavy’s writin
Joe Mossa

this is # 99 on my list of 100. i received the greatest joy when i read the last page and didn t have to spend any more time with ,sabastian. is this a great novel cause donleavy describes in great detail one of the worst characters in literature ? he is cruel to women and yet they keep coming back to him. he doesn t work, barely studies his law books, has no redeeming qualities. he reminds me of the college drunks who wasted their education in college. there are so many bad books on this list
James Newman
Mar 17, 2011 James Newman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I became aware of this book after recently reading a Hunter S. Thompson biography, wherein it describes how Hunter discovered the book in New York, and did his best to imitate Dangerfield's lifestyle. After reading the Ginger Man it became apparent that Hunter had at last found a hard act to follow in terms of womanising, alcohol abuse and empty promises.

Apparently the Ginger Man was turned down by something like 40 publishers before finding it's way to the mainly pornographic publishers Olympi
Sometimes I am absolutely baffled as to why certain books are on the Modern Library Top 100 book list. This is certainly one of those. Sebastian Dangerfield is an American studying law at Trinity College in Dublin just after WWII, married and with a daughter, and with a serious drinking problem and a really, really bad attitude. He is a 100% unredeemable character, beating and humiliating his wife and trying to smother his daughter in one of his rages. He very occasionally studies or goes to his ...more
Mick Stepp
Sep 24, 2009 Mick Stepp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scoundrels, re-reads
I have to be careful when I talk about this book. Especially with women. Most women despise The Ginger Man. Actually, what they despise is the Sebastian Dangerfield character for he is a drunken, misogynistic, lecherous scoundrel, the very kind of man they are terrified that their daughters might someday meet. The more open minded among them, however, appreciate the quality of Donleavy's rendering, the richness and inventiveness of the language and the out and out hilarity of the story.

I love wo
Nov 15, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
#99 on the Modern Library Board's List. Published in 1955. If there's a reason people don't succeed in working through the Modern Library backwards, it's probably this. "The Ginger Man" is a novel for no one, except perhaps sociopathic poser intellectuals who find bawdy antipathy entertaining.

I'll start with Donleavy's prose style, the only redeeming thing about the novel. "The Ginger Man" swerves wildly between the first and third person, an interior monologue one moment and a systematic sketch
Aug 26, 2008 DRM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't help but think of the fine British comedy Withnail And I while reading this. Much like the dialogue in that film, Donleavy's witty, loosely constructed vignettes might be a bit disorienting at first bit they grow on you and you find yourself chuckling more and more especially in the more bizarre stream of consciousness moments (kangaroo costumes, public transportation "wardrobe malfunctions"). The other point of reference for me was Tropic Of Cancer as the narrator is also an "anti he ...more
Mar 08, 2008 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I wonder if neuroscientists will ever be able to analyse tears that contain the byproducts of great happiness and great sadness at the same time. And what is such an intense feeling called? Even to think of this book brings a tear to my eye, and reading it I cry buckets. This horrible, loveable, picaresque hero and antihero, this moonchild of Irish imagination. Wow
Alli Treman
Feb 28, 2010 Alli Treman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vit Babenco
Jan 15, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“She went down the steps. Paused, turned, smiled. Key. Green door. Few seconds. A light goes on. Shadow moves across the window. Hers. What sweet stuff, sweeter than all the roses. Come down God and settle in my heart on this triangular Friday.”
While reading Ginger Man I was literally mesmerised by its magically artistic language – it has never occurred to me that the words could be so kinematic. And also it was my first black humour trip. And it was the book that made me fall in love with postm
Loring Wirbel
Dublin certainly went crazy in the summer of 2015 celebrating the 60th anniversary of Donleavy's first book. Special forums were held at Trinity College, mere blocks away from Sebastian Dangerfield's favorite drinking establishments. And Johnny Depp, who has threatened for a decade to produce a film version of The Ginger Man starring himself, was recruited to write a brief but to-the-point foreword to this beautiful Lilliput memorial hardback edition.

So how does Donleavy's inaugural work hold up
David Hartzheim
Apr 21, 2014 David Hartzheim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man, the manic/sad antics of Sebastian Dangerfield, has never been out of print since its first publication in Paris, 1955. Now available in ebook and audiobook editions, it has been translated into 25 languages and has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. The Ginger Man is the chronicle of Sebastian's struggles, a tale of the human spirit pitted against itself, that of an anti-hero bent upon getting what he deserves whether he deserves it or not. "You scratch my bac ...more

The long and tortured history of J P Donleavy's first novel parallels the trials and tribulations of Sebastian Dangerfield, anti-hero and bad boy, aka the Ginger Man. Because of sexual content, Donleavy had a heck of a time getting published and until 1965, all versions were expurgated (obscene or objectionable passages deleted.) It is considered a classic as well as Donleavy's best work.

As the story opens, Dangerfield is unhappily married to a woman whom he had hoped would bring him money but i
Jul 09, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The Ginger Man J. P. Donleavey (1955) #99

July 9, 2013

Ok, I know; I usually go on and on about despicable protagonists in books on this list (well, except for Humbert Humbert), but I kind of liked Sebastian Dangerfield, and I really liked this book.
There is a lot about this book that compares to Joyce. This book sort of reads like a poor man’s Ulysses, and is chock full of grammatical and literary inconsistencies, the likes of which would give a high school English teacher an aneurysm. Sometime
Jul 09, 2016 Bridget rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've been trying to formulate a review for this for a couple of days. I read it because it is on the Modern Library Top 100 Novels list - otherwise I would have put it down after the infamous page 29: "He drove his fist into Marion’s face [his wife]. She fell backward against the cupboard… In tattered underwear he stood at the nursery door. He kicked his foot through and tore off the lock to open it. Took the child’s pillow from under its head and pressed it hard on the screaming mouth." (please ...more
Brent Mckay
Apr 21, 2014 Brent Mckay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it must be some sort of literary masterstroke to make me read and mostly enjoy 350 pages about an unlikable sociopath. this book made me want to shower very thoroughly afterwards...and then have some tea. writing this, i feel like i have a filth caked on me from having witnessed Donleavy's transgressions and yet stayed with him/the book afterwards, somehow empathizing enough to where Donleavy made me part of Dangerfield's mistakes, and yet capable of the very empathy of which Dangerfield is not. ...more
Nov 09, 2014 M. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could not wait to finish this wretched novel. Yes, it's #99 on the Modern Library List of 100 Best Novels. There are undoubtedly comic bits, and the sketches of Dublin and the many walk-on Irish characters are engaging. Sebastian Dangerfield's interior monologues swoop from the philosophical to the gutter and back again; the effect is sometimes poetic and sometimes just plain mad. However, the real setting for his (mostly) drunken meanderings isn't just Dublin, it's the lives of four women who ...more
John Connolly
The Ginger Man took up more time than I thought it would: I’ve tried to read it twice before but never managed to get to grips with it. This time I persevered, and now I never have to read it again. We all have books that, for some reason or another, fail to connect with us. For me, The Ginger Man seems destined to remain one of those, but at least I’m no longer nagged by my failure to finish it.
Apr 26, 2016 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dorothy Parker called The Ginger Man “a rigadoon of rascality, a bawled-out comic song of sex.” How can you top that?

Pitch black humor as only the Irish can do it. Not as stylistically ambitious as The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, but funnier all the way through.
Jul 27, 2015 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You would not want the Ginger Man for a husband, a tenant or even for a drinking buddy, since he is usually broke and cadging drinks.
He is hilarious to read about and I highly recommend this book.
Tom Quinn
Sep 06, 2015 Tom Quinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written by an American, The Ginger Man is probably the best Irish novel of the mid-20th century, and has not been bettered since. Let’s face it, since Joyce, admittedly a hard act to follow, there has been little enough to get excited about in the Irish novel. Flann ‘O Brien’s extraordinary At-Swim-Two-Birds is as near as anyone gets to a post-Joycean masterpiece. J.P.Donleavy’s Ginger Man may not be a masterpiece, but it is a pinnacle of sorts, brazen bustling and brawling in a way perhaps no n ...more
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James Patrick Donleavy is an Irish American author, born to Irish immigrants. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II after which he moved to Ireland. In 1946 he began studies at Trinity College, Dublin, but left before taking a degree. He was first published in the Dublin literary periodical, Envoy.

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