Monday, 18 September 2017

THE GINGER MAN

The play was closed in Dublin after just three performances.

One of my favourite writers. J.P. Donleavy, passed last week at the ripe old age of 91.
I first came across Donleavy in London in the summer of 1970 when somebody gave me a copy of The Ginger Man. The book was banned in Ireland at the time, but was already proving a best-seller worldwide.
I began reading it on the tube coming home from work and came across one particularly amusing chapter (of which there were many) which left me giggling uncontrollable.
The carriage was filled with city businessmen dressed in pin-stripe suits with bowler hats and furled umbrellas. It was like a scene from Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" but they were not amused. They rattled their Times newspapers at this somewhat loud and manic intrusion and glared disapprovingly at me. But, the more they glared, the louder I giggled.
I was going to Maida Vale but decided to get off at Warwick Avenue for fear that I might be reported and carted off to some lunatic asylum. It was a two-mile walk in pouring rain, and by the time I got home I was drenched to the skin but still laughing.
This was my first introduction to Donleavy and The Ginger Man and I became a life-long fan of both the book and of the author.
Brendan Behan was also a fan and Donleavy described many hilarious and often drunken escapades that they both enjoyed together.
Behan read the manuscript of The Ginger Man.
This book of yours is going to go around the world and beat the bejaysus out of the Bible!” he predicted.
He was only half right.
Edna O'Brien was a contemporary of Donleavy's. She had just completed The Country Girls (also banned) and had started an affair with her future husband, the writer Enest Gebler who happened to be already married.
The family learned of this sinful state of affairs and the O'Brien Brothers were despatched to rescue their sister from a life of debauchery and teach Gebler a lesson in the process,
However, Donleavy happened to be a house guest at the time. He was a more than useful boxer in the U.S. Army and in the ensuing brawl he threw a couple of swift jabs that convinced the brothers that discretion might be the better part of valour. They retreated to a nearby public house with Donleavy in hot pursuit.
The protagonists eventually settled the matter in amicable fashion over a few flowing pints of Guinness and a boisterous sing-song while poor Edna was left to her fate.
The Ginger Man may not have been J.P. Donleavy's best book but it was certainly his most famous. And, years later, he described it as follows;
I set out one June near the sea in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, to write a splendid book no one would ever forget. I knew then that the years would come and go and the book would live. It has taken more years than I ever could have imagined and more battles than I ever felt I'd have to fight but the fist I shook and the rage I spent has at last blossomed and before it should fade I'd like to say that I am glad.” 

J.P. Donleavy 1926 - 2017