A Singular Man, 1926-2017
September 14, 2017 8:09 AM   Subscribe

J. P. Donleavy, the expatriate American author whose 1955 novel “The Ginger Man” shook up the literary world with its combination of sexual frankness and outrageous humor, died on Monday at a hospital near his home in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland. He was 91. [NY Times]

"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." --From The Ginger Man

"On Being Old. It's not nice but take comfort that you won't stay that way for ever." --From The Unexpurgated Code

The Grauniad

From the NYT, 2014: J.P. Donleavy is Still Standing
The J.P. Donleavy Compendium
posted by chavenet (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That is a very weird novel.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:30 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I hauled my little, ratty copy of that book around with me until it fell apart.
posted by Bacon Bit at 8:36 AM on September 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I finally read The Ginger Man about a year ago. Let's say it opened up another view of Dublin from the one I got in Ulysses. I really need to read some more of his books. At least he left a lot behind.

posted by njohnson23 at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've still not read The Ginger Man. Last year I picked up a copy of his book De Alfonce Tennis out of curiosity (for 50p from a charity shop) which was a very odd production indeed. I admit I was a little surprised to learn, having googled him after reading it, that he was still alive... Like his career, it started promisingly enough, but then sort of petered out. There was much preoccupation in it with ostentatious old-fashioned luxury, as I recall: fur coats, champagne, etc. Still, he was evidently quite the character & it'll be a less colourful world without him.
posted by misteraitch at 8:44 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

The only thing I ever remember about The Ginger Man, and thus about Donleavy, is the scene where the guy rushes from the bathroom to catch a bus and takes an entire bus ride not only with his fly unzipped but with his penis hanging out. Completely misses any cues from fellow bus riders ("Part of you, sir, is showing.") until he's ready to leave and then realizes simultaneously that "it's out" and that he's forgotten the package from the butcher that he's carrying. ("You can't remember your meat at all today.")

All told, I'm sorry that the mind that created that is gone.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:02 AM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit afraid to re-read The Ginger Man, because I recall really liking it, even if it was monstrously depressing and not at all funny in the way I was led to believe it would be.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I remember a choice phrase from The Beastly Beatitudes... "hounded fuckless through the streets". RIP.
posted by aesop at 9:46 AM on September 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I tend to prefer his short stories; Meet My Maker The Mad Molecule is pretty fun. I thought I had a copy of the Unexpurgated Code kicking around, but I can't seem to lay my hands on it. It's pretty consistently hilarious; my father, also a fan, introduced me to it after we discovered a hot sauce called Pukka Sauce, as to be "pukka" (the proper way of things if you're to the manor born).

I will say that he hasn't aged entirely well — The Ginger Man and Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B both have a lot of funny moments in them, but what might have read as rakish elan in an earlier era, or at least humorous caddishness, now reads as pretty misogynistic abuse. There's just less humor in men behaving badly to women when you start to think of women as people rather than foils.
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

From the NYT obit:
In a strange twist, after Mr. Donleavy had been pursuing legal action against Olympia for years to regain the book’s copyright, he ended up owning the Paris company, having sent his wife to slip into an auction and buy it for a relatively small sum in 1970 after it went bankrupt.
What an odd world this is!
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on September 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

Gosh, I havn't thought about The Ginger Man for 45+ years
posted by growabrain at 3:47 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've often felt that Meet My Maker The Mad Molecule is possibly the best literary title ever.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:44 PM on September 14, 2017

posted by Mister Bijou at 12:34 AM on September 15, 2017

posted by filtergik at 3:45 AM on September 15, 2017

The beastly beatitudes of Balthazar b was a favorite of my no-sex having high school self. It was fuggin filthy, and fuggin funny. RIP
posted by hatchetjack at 8:14 AM on September 18, 2017

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