Post by That Derek
Sorry, gang, my allotment of free monthly NYT look-ups is critically low.
Heeere I come to saaaave the daaaaay:
J.P. Donleavy, Acclaimed Author of 'The Ginger Man,' Dies at 91
By ANITA GATES
SEPT. 13, 2017
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
"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
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
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.
A stage version of "The Ginger Man" opened in London in 1959, with
Richard Harris as Dangerfield, and a British television movie starring
Ian Hendry was broadcast in 1962. Patrick O'Neal starred in an Off
Broadway production in 1963 (and opened a restaurant named for the play
across from Lincoln Center that same year), but there has yet to be a
feature film version.
"Everyone who has ever been in Hollywood has had a go at making a
picture from the book," Mr. Donleavy told the London newspaper The
Independent in 2010.
Mike Nichols, John Huston and Robert Redford all pursued the idea. At
one point in the 1990s, Mr. Donleavy's son Philip was set to produce a
film version. Johnny Depp was the most recent movie figure to announce
plans to develop it.
Mr. Donleavy wrote more than a dozen novels, as well as plays and
nonfiction books. If anyone doubted his taste for stylistic
extravagance, the titles of some of his books — like "The Beastly
Beatitudes of Balthazar B." (1968), the story of a man whose only happy
affair was with his nanny, and "The Destinies of Darcy Dancer,
Gentleman" (1977) — made that point on their own.
The protagonist of "The Onion Eaters" (1971) lives in a crumbling Irish
castle and is prone to sex and violence. Even Mr. Donleavy's so-called
etiquette guide, "The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival
& Manners" (1975), was irreverent, including sections on "plate and
knife licking" and "how to prevent people from detesting you."
His fiction also included "A Singular Man" (1963), about a business
executive who has affairs with two secretaries and his housekeeper, and
"A Fairy Tale of New York" (1973), about an American who goes to work
at a funeral home to pay for his wife's burial. Both were adapted for
the stage, as was "The Beastly Beatitudes."
Mr. Donleavy was an accomplished painter and had exhibitions on both
sides of the Atlantic, including a show at the National Arts Club in
Manhattan in 2007, when he was 81. Of old age, he wrote, "It's not
nice, but take comfort that you won't stay that way forever."
Mr. Donleavy found himself in the news in 2011 when his second wife,
Mary Wilson Price, an actress, revealed that the two grown children she
had given birth to during their 19-year marriage, which ended in
divorce in 1989, were not Mr. Donleavy's. DNA tests performed after the
couple had separated established that Rebecca Donleavy was the daughter
of Kieran Guinness, of the brewing dynasty, and Rory Donleavy was the
son of Finn Guinness, Kieran's brother, whom Ms. Price later married.
Ms. Price announced that she would publish a memoir, but not in Mr.
James Patrick Donleavy Jr. was born in Brooklyn on April 23, 1926, the
son of James and Margaret Donleavy, Irish immigrants. He grew up in the
northeast Bronx, near Van Cortlandt Park. His father worked as a
florist and orchid grower and eventually became a firefighter.
The younger Mr. Donleavy began boxing at the New York Athletic Club in
his teens and was told he had the makings of a middleweight champion.
"The trick is to keep the arm and fist loose like a piece of spaghetti
and the fist limp until the moment of impact," he said in a 2000
interview with the magazine Irish America, having kept up his skills
over the years. "If you do that, they won't even see it coming."
After serving in the Navy in World War II, he studied microbiology at
Trinity College in Dublin on the G.I. Bill. The title character of "The
Ginger Man," Mr. Donleavy said, was inspired by a classmate there,
Gainor Stephen Cris.
Mr. Donleavy lived in London and on the Isle of Man for most of the
1950s and '60s, then moved to Ireland in 1969 after it had abolished
the income tax for creative artists, including writer. He had lived
since 1972 at Levington Park, a mid-18th-century stone manor house on a
180-acre estate and working farm in County Westmeath.
Asked to identify himself by nationality, Mr. Donleavy would say he was
an American, but a writer for T: The New York Times Style Magazine
described him in 2014 as "an odd fish swimming the mid-Atlantic apart
from all the usual schools of thought."
Mr. Donleavy's first marriage, to Valerie Heron, ended in divorce in
1969. In addition to his sister, who is a professor of education at
Lehman College in the Bronx, and the two children from his marriage to
Ms. Price, his survivors include his son Philip and a daughter, Karen
Donleavy, from his marriage to Ms. Heron, and several grandchildren.
His brother, Thomas, died in 2016.
His last published novels were "The Lady Who Liked Clean Rest Rooms"
(1997) and "Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton" (1998).
Mr. Donleavy had also been working on a manuscript, "The Dog That Fell
From the 17th Floor," for several years. All three were set in and
around New York.
Mr. Donleavy sometimes expressed a decidedly practical opinion about
his chosen career. "One day, while innocently looking in the window of
an old established cheese shop in London, the definition of what
writing is all about hit me," he told Time magazine in 1968. "Writing
is turning one's worst moments into money."