Saturday, June 11, 2011


The Ginger Man, J P Donleavy, Grove Press, 1958, 368 pp

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 instead has brought him a daughter and a nagging disposition. You can't really blame her for nagging. Sebastian is a fellow who will pawn items from their furnished apartment and spend it on drink. He is supposed to be attending law school in Dublin but instead he drinks, parties with his buddies and chases women.

There is nothing admirable about Sebastian Dangerfield. He is incapable of work and lives only in hopes of inheriting money from his aging, wealthy father. All his friends are the same kinds of guys and they prop each other up while they egg each other on. Yet many women I know, including myself, have fallen for this type of man at least once.

The story has humor, pathos and a smidgen of hope that Dangerfield will get it together, but all along the reader knows he won't. I don't understand the appeal but I couldn't stop reading it.

(The Ginger Man is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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