,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Monday, January 30, 2006


J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man

A Classic of our Times
The Ginger Man. I read it when I lived in India, read it again during a vacation in the west of Ireland, and just finished reading the book for the third time. Enjoyed every page. His first novel, Donleavy took years to complete it and had difficulty finding a publisher because of fear of backlash from the Catholic Church. Ribald, poignant, and scathing in its portrayal of the Catholics in Ireland, the book was published in 1955 by Olympia Press in Paris. Later, Donleavy decided to disassociate himself from Olympia Press due to its fame as a publisher of pornography. The book did cause a lot of controversy in and outside Ireland. It is on my list of ten books to take if I am banished to a deserted island.

Sebastian Dangerfield, Kenneth O'Keefe, Miss Frost, Percy Clocklan, Macdoon--unforgettable characters, all.

"Relax, Miss Frost."
"I didn't want to do this. I know I didn't want to."
"Yes, you did."
"I didn't, please, didn't."
Miss Frost turned away on her side, her body choked and sobbing.
"Miss Frost, God is all merciful."
"But it's a mortal sin which I have to confess to the priest and it's adultery as well."
"Please now, Miss Frost. Take hold of yourself. This won't do any good."
"It's adultery."
"One mortal sin is the same as another."
"I'm damned. It isn't."
"Do you want me to go?"
"Don't leave me alone."
"Don't cry. God's not going to condemn you. You're a good person. God's only after people who are out and out bastards, habitual sinners. You must be sensible."
"I'll have to give your name."
"You what ?"
"Your name. I'll have to tell it to the priest."
"What makes you think that ? Nonsense."
"He'll ask me."
"Not at all."
"He will. And they'll send the priest to my mother."
"Ridiculous. The priest's only there to forgive you your sins."
"Miss Frost, you've done this before."
"And they sent the priest to your mother?"
"And they asked the name of the man?"
Joseph Patrick Donleavy was born in New York in 1926. He went to Dublin to study at Trinity College and currently lives in a mansion called Levington Park, County Westmeath, near Mullingar, about 50 miles from Dublin. His works include A Singular Man, The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman; The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, and Fairy Tales of New York.

Upon being old ...
"It's not nice but take comfort that you won't stay that way forever."
J.P. Donleavy (from The Unexpurgated Code.)..

Ireland today is quite different than the one in which Donleavy wrote The Ginger Man. One thing has not changed much though. The Catholic Church in Ireland continues to be the most repressive in Europe. Difficult to understand why the Irish allow the church to intrude so deeply into their personal lives. But there are signs of waning influence of the church.

Trivia: According to a recent report, Johnny Depp will play the lead role in a movie based on The Ginger Man. Too bad that Maggie Smith and Deborah Kerr are both past the age to be considered for the part of Miss Frost.

"Lilly, why did you want me to do it this way?"
"O, Mr. Dangerfield, it's so much less of a sin."
---The Ginger Man

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