David Lentz's Reviews > The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy
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Jun 11, 2011

it was amazing

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 non-traditional presented like life itself in fragments of which to make sense. His little lines of stacked type at the end of each chapter are works of art in themselves: "All the way/From the land/Of Kerry/Is a man/From the dead/Gone merry./ This man/Stood in the street/ And stamped his feet/ And no one heard him." Here the work winds from prose to poetry to create an endearing human quality and even tenderness that enables us to forgive the ginger man for his outrageousness. What would he and his poor as Pozzo crones do with a lot of money? Drink at every pub from College Green to Kerry over the course of a year and then "I'll arrive on Dingle Peninsula walk out on the end of Slea Head, beat, wet and penniless. I'll sit there and weep into the sea." Very Dylan Thomas. A touch Kafkaesque. Joycean. JPD's Ginger Man is worthy of a higher position on Random House's "Best Novels of the 20th Century." His body of work, including "Darcy Dancer," "Balthazar B," "The Singluar Man," "The Onion Eaters," "Wrong Info at Princeton" and "Samuel S." is astonishing in its lyric virtuosity, power and originality. When will the mavens of Hollywood treat us to tales by JPD that shimmer and dance upon the silverscreen? And when will the good people in Stockholm see the light on JPD's vast, rich, enduring, literary legacy?
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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David Hartzheim David, excellent review. I'm glad you could see beyond the fact that Sebastian is a wastrel some of the time. And I'm appreciative that you give Donleavy credit for his other major works as well. As Donleavy says, "When I'm dead, I hope it may be said: his sins were scarlet, but his books were read."


David Lentz Bless you, my brother and not in name only: there are so many great JP Donleavy quotes and here's a favorite about NYC: “New York is the City that is too rich to laugh at and too lonely and ruthless to love.”


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