The novelist and playwright J. P. Donleavy at
Levington Park, the County Westmeath, Ireland, estate
where he had lived since the 1970s.
photo: Kenneth O Halloran
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.
His sister, Mary Rita Donleavy, said the cause was a stroke.
Mr. Donleavy had considerable trouble finding a publisher for “The Ginger Man,” his bawdily adventurous story of 1940s university life in Dublin, which he described to The New York Times in 2000 as “celebratory, boisterous and resolutely careless mayhem.”
The playwright Brendan Behan, a friend, suggested that Mr. Donleavy send the manuscript to Olympia Press in Paris. This worked out well, in that Olympia accepted the book, and not well, in that it was published as part of the Traveler’s Companion series, which was known for erotica.
“That was basically the end of my career,” Mr. Donleavy told The Times. “I was ‘a dirty book writer’ out of Paris.” In fact, he went on to write many other successful novels.
“The Ginger Man” — whose bohemian American-in-Ireland antihero, Sebastian Dangerfield, has been described as impulsive, destructive, wayward, cruel, a monster, a clown and a psychopath — was both banned and burned in Ireland. When it was published in the United States in 1958, Chapter 10 was omitted, along with numerous sentences here and there.
The novel eventually won critical acclaim and public acceptance, so much so that it is now considered a contemporary classic, selling more than 45 million copies worldwide. Mr. Donleavy was compared to James Joyce and hailed as a forerunner of both the black humor movement and the London playwrights known as the Angry Young Men.
“What really makes ‘The Ginger Man’ a vital work,” Norman Podhoretz, the longtime editor of Commentary, wrote, “is the fact that it both reflects and comments dramatically on the absurdities of an age clinging to values in which it simply cannot believe and unable to summon up the courage to find out what its moral convictions really are.”
For the whole article go to: The New York Times