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A Fairy Tale of New York

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  737 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
A Fairy Tale of New York is a funny, lusty, and sad novel of comic genius. Returning from study abroad, Cornelius Christian enters customs with his luggage and his dead wife. His first encounter in New York is with a funeral director, with whom he reluctantly takes employment to pay for the burial expenses. In the course of his duties he meets the beautiful Fanny Sourpuss ...more
ebook, 348 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published September 1973)
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Aug 14, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
J.P. Donleavy is one of my top five favorite authors of all time. And for me, this is my favorite of his novels.

The lead character is a floundering, directionless scoundrel but he's also a lost person who side stepped into a maze after immigrating to New York City. There's an honesty to this book, there's an honesty to how one can be so alone and yet surrounded by millions of people in NYC.

This particular quote sums up exactly why this book struck home to me so hard, as I read this shortly after
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fairy Tale of New York is the tale of mourning and it is the tale of love.
“The deceased's arm hanging out over the side of the casket. Fingers dipping into the tips of the lilies of the valley. Fuming up their fragrance when all we need is smelling salts.”
It is the book of the dead.
“Show honesty in the squeeze of your handshake. Grow tall strong and bronze like the buildings. Tear them down before they get ghosts. All over this city. Too rich to laugh at. Too lonely to love.”
It is the book of
Aug 18, 2010 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holly, whom you probably don't know, once felt strongly that every Jansenist, Jesuit, dentist, or destitute should at some point and time ask herself following:

What will be found at the crossroads of idealism and benevolence? Will it be The Puritans of the Long Parliament or The Piano Man of Long Island?

Mind, Holly's friend Fire, expressly named after the famous element, then paraphrased her initial question; verbally offering it to the group. As such:

Is it obvious that man's ethical responsi
Nov 24, 2015 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Been thinking of a way of describing this book and I've come up with:

Henry Miller with a sense of humour!

Just like Miller he has created a cast of horrible characters, violence, foul language and gratuitous sex, combining to make a great read.

Donleavy uses short. Punchy sentences. To make this story move along very fastly. Christian is a brilliant character, at first I thought he was gonna be a bit soft but turns out he was wonderfully destructive, his politeness was hilarious at times creating
Apr 25, 2015 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the sixth novel of Donleavy's I've read, in order of composition. His prose style--the sentence fragments, irregular spellings, gorgeous imagery, shifts from third to first person, poetic chapter endings, the main characters with alliterative names--was firmly in place from the beginning, and somewhere between A Singular Man and The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, all of the author's thematic concerns and motifs were nailed down as well. These include:

- a deep desire for wealth and le
Jun 02, 2011 Megan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book’s about American guy who moves back to America from Ireland and scams his way through life with his good looks, Irish accent, and charm. He is completely unsympathetic and I couldn’t even love to hate him. It was interesting that he lived in Greenlawn, a section of New York that judging from the descriptions was based on Woodlawn, which was where I was living at the time. But it didn’t justify the obnoxiousness of the narrator.
Jan 22, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I could really see myself in the main character of this book. In not in action, that at least it spirit.
Andrew Church
Oct 25, 2007 Andrew Church rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably my favorite J.P. Donleavy book. It, like most of his books, is very sentimental but his main characters all feel like they could be friends of mine.
Dec 25, 2007 Kirstie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in strong character/protagonist development
Recommended to Kirstie by: Rory
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 13, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second time reading this book, the first being in my late 20s. At this point in my life, it is less entertaining and more crass. I do feel more empathy for Christian, a very lonely man, an orphan with a sad childhood who clearly has brought a lot of this sadness with him through life. The book begins with death, the death of his wife. He returns to the place of his lonely childhood, NYC. He enters the funeral business and surrounds himself with more death. He tries to escape lonelines ...more
Doug Haynes
Feb 23, 2009 Doug Haynes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Not, in my opinion the best ever written by Donleavy but even his second string is a masterpiece by most standards.

Once again we follow an emotionally stunted drunk, delusional and philandering cad on his rough and tumble journey through polite, and some cases not so polite, society in search of a little bit of peace and dignity accompanied by just a slight nip of the drink and maybe a little bit of satisfaction for ones frontal tail.

The cast of characters is amazing, the protagonist is both dep
Frank Cole
Jan 09, 2014 Frank Cole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding work. My personal favorite of Donleavys novels. From the moment the protagonist unloads his poor dead wife from the ship, things begin to go south for this mislead young man as he makes his way through New York in this hilarious dark comedy of a novel. Nearly every page is full of quotable lines and memorable characters, from an eastern-european boardinghouse manager who keeps an iron bar between her huge breasts for dealing with unruly tenants to his extensive string of hungry femal ...more
Gila Gila
Dec 31, 2014 Gila Gila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I'm never quite sure how many US readers are still reading Donleavy, and always hoping it's more than I suspect. The funniest bits of this one take place while Our Newly Widowed Hero (and usual Donleavy lovable bastard) is working, or drinking, or getting nailed at a funeral parlour. But as with all JP's novels, the ultimate effect of the novel is heartbreak, a quiet and all encompassing loneliness.

That said. After reading him I find it difficult not to. Purloin his style. Because.
Jul 11, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
* 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list

Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.
Oct 26, 2014 georgia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Donleavy's original and often mad stream of conciousness writing style made this novel weird and kind of wonderful. Besides all the cringey euphemisms for the male anatomy (I seem to remember at one point he referred to it as his FLUTE or something equally hilarious), it was a sophisticated, humourous, and - more often than not - a really tragic story. Cornelius Christian is a character you want to despise, yet your heart cannot feel anything but love for.
Donna Brown

Having read almost everything Donleavy wrote in my younger years, I am very disappointed in this book. Basically, there is no plot. Cornelius Christian drifts from situation to situation for no reason. Some of these situations are very funny but disjointed. Also the stream of consciousness writing just seems out of control. I've only got a few pages left but not sure I'll even finish it. Sad for someone whose favorite book while a 20-something was The Ginger Man.
Terry Clague
"You know, there must be happiness somewhere, when a lawyer dies."

"Some people will accept nothing but a lie when you're struggling to tell the gospel truth."

An enjoyable novel. Not as funny as I'd been led to believe but certainly laughed out loud during the courtroom scene. I'm looking forward to listening to the song of the same name at the start of the Christmas season on November 6th.
Andrew Gulakov
This is funny and ruffian tale about unfortunate reaching of the american dream, but it's cute because of its controversial hero. He is a stranger among the familiars and familiar among the strangers ))
Feb 07, 2014 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I may have to give up on Mr Donleavy. Nice bits here and there, sharp for a while then drags for a while, I cared about the protagonist less and less as the book rolled along, the raunch felt like raunch for its own sake instead of being an integral component. Sorry.
Lubov Yakovleva
Aug 01, 2014 Lubov Yakovleva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Мир, как он есть?
А что это?

Безнадёжность, усталость, мрачность, красота абсурда.

Мир прогнил?
Не знаю.

Лучший способ выжить и сохранить себя - работать в погребальном бюро.

Давно читала, смутно помню.
Но опыт чтения этой книги был важен.
Greg Akins
This is a really interestly written book. JP uses a mix of conventional prose and un filtered stream of conciousness writing .. It get's difficult to read at times, but it yields some interesting views into the nature of his characters
Feb 23, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book much more than The Ginger Man. It was more lighthearted, and also funny! As someone who lives in Manhattan, it was fun reading about the city. There are similarities in society as well as landmarks that existed then, and now.
May 20, 2009 Freder rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was much too young for this book when I read it. It wasn't so much that the sex stuff was embarrassing, but the book requires a basic sophistication that I didn't have. Need to re-visit this one someday.
Cinematic Frankenstein
I adore the books about death and different awful things. In spite of it, this book, where there are a lot of stuff about funeral service and strange minds, i don't like it at all. There is no atmosphere of my favourite city.
Jan 07, 2013 Jeanee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's an absurdity to the characters that makes it New York.
Apr 30, 2013 Régis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
abandoned after 90 pages.
I was not thrilled by the plot, and I don't like the style of writing
Bruce Ferber
Jan 01, 2015 Bruce Ferber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn't read Donleavy since picking up "The Ginger Man" as a teenager. A wonderful reunion. Exuberant, heartfelt, and a great take on NY.
Feb 19, 2015 Charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, especially in terms of the isolation that results from death.
Richard Schave
A Fairytale of New York by J. P. Donleavy (1974)
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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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“You know, there must be happiness somewhere, when a lawyer dies.” 6 likes
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