Niklas Pivic's Reviews > The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy
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's review
Sep 07, 12

bookshelves: 1950s, abuse, alcohol, stream-of-consciousness, civilisation, crime, dark, funny, england, irish, life, philosophy, psychopathology, thoughts, violence
Recommended to Niklas by: Port Magazine
Recommended for: all
Read from August 30 to September 07, 2012

There are a lot of quotes packed in this tome. And there are a lot of failures, but not in the writing.

During the first 20% of this book, I thought the rest of it would be pretty Hunter S. Thompson-straightforwardish, a bit of "oh, this must have influenced 'Withnail % I'", but no. I'm glad to have been wrong.

It's abuse. It's horror. The mundane existence of alcoholics (which is not mundane in the least to a non-alcoholic) embedded in thoughts spun as they're spoken, which is very comparable with an old comic-book without sound effects strewn throughout the pages. With all of the onomatopoetry lost, the reader gains much.

It all flows as stream-of-consciousness, even though it's evident and plain. An adulterer. A man of ill repute, yet of psychopathic tendencies. Some effective short sentences, e.g.

O'Keefe filling a bowl with bread crumbs. Night outside and the boom of the sea. Angelus bells. Pause that refreshes.

Then there are the near-Shakespeareian dialogue:

On this June morning, Dangerfield came in the front gate of Trinity and went up the dusty rickety stairs of No. 3 where he stood by the dripping rust-stained sink and banged on O'Keefe's door. A minute passed and then the sound of padding feet and latches being undone and the appearance of a bearded, dreary face and one empty eye. "It's you." The door was swung open and O'Keefe plodded back to his bedroom. A smell of stale sperm and rancid butter. Mouldering on the table, a loaf of bread, a corner bitten from it with marks of teeth. The fireplace filled with newspapers, old socks, spittle stains and products of self pollution. "Christ, Kenneth, don't you think you ought to have this place cleaned up?" "What for? Does it make you sick? Vomit in the fireplace."

...and a simplified notion of why some of them drink:

But Jesus, when you don't have any money, the problem is food. When you have money, it's sex. When you have both it's health, you worry about getting rupture or something. If everything is simply jake then you're frightened of death. And look at these faces, all stuck with the first problem and will be for the rest of their days."

Still, this is much more than clever one-liners. It's repetitiveness, and what seems not to be repetitive to people who aren't in this disposition, or who have become too old to remember what it was like.

Highly recommendable not due to Donleavy's style or the quotes, but as a whole. As the revolutions heighten, the end of the book is welcome and grand. Which the book is, entirely.

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Reading Progress

36.0% "This is "Withnail & I" combined with Amis' "Money", yet growing at a much better pace than Amis' work. Terrifying and a frightful deterrent against alcohol."

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