THE HISTORY OF THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy

THE HISTORY OF THE GINGER MAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The story of the writing, publication, and court battles of Donleavy's classic novel The Ginger Man--never out of print since first publication by Olympia Press in 1955. A high Augustan and mock-Irish poetic aloofness carapaciously enshells and protects the bare-bottomed innocence of this banned, reviled, and adored author now 67 or so no comma please who indulges throughout in a gentleman's tweedily snug and pluperfect wordsmanship both lyrical and in silverpoint sentence fragments, a snob's game at times oddly self-sinking. How was it that the Bronx- born writer-citizen of Ireland was seemingly bound hand and foot by porno publisher Maurice Girodias before the game was by fortune reversed, sublimely, for the wild ginger man? Attending Trinity College in Dublin on the GI Bill, ``Mike'' Donleavy fell in with old Navy buddy Gainor Stephen Crist, who lent his personal flavor to Donleavy's hero Sebastian Dangerfield, the ginger man, as did a second friend, Dublin publisher John Ryan. These charmers ``savored language, rolled it about on the tongue, tasted for its vintage and measuredly rationed it out to the waiting ears.'' Donleavy's boozing comrade, spit-in-yer-eye Irish playwright Brendan Behan, clearly lends a bounce to Dangerfield as well. Young Donleavy, poor as an outhouse rat, marries, moves his bride to a cheap cottage in Kilcoole, and begins his four-year stint of writing a first novel, The Ginger Man, some of whose unedited, unused, or misbegotten passages here rise in blood from the page. We are lip-lickingly compelled to await the arrival of villainous publisher Girodias, who when he does show up after 400 pages seems a reasonable if greedy fellow whose villainy has been as overblown as Donleavy's grandiosity, which in fact is all style overlying tubby substance. Even so: often quite wonderful, especially about Behan and Crist. Donleavy's unbuttoned best in 40 years, as unbalanced as The Ginger Man.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1994
ISBN: 0-395-51595-5
Page count: 518pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1994




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