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The ginger man,: A novel Hardcover – 1958

3.9 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1958
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 327 pages
  • Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky; [Rev. ed.] edition (1958)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006AVI7I
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An overrated writer about an exceedingly unpleasant man. I've heard it's based on himself. Deliberately difficult to read. However the book supplier was excellent.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My father is in his eighties and from Dublin. The book is written about Dublin back in the day and he couldn't put it down. Read cover to cover in a single day and absolutely loved it! 10/10.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Ginger Man describes the life of American student Sebastian Dangerfield at Trinity College, Dublin in the late 1940s. The story careers along, swinging between beauty, squalor, joy, misery, hilarity and sadness, often in the space of the same paragraph. Dangerfield seems at times a violent lunatic, while on other occasions presenting himself as an innocent, cast into the violent lunacy of Irish life. Ireland and the United States banned the book for obscenity, when often it is the appalling moral rigour of Irish society - intimidating the lovely Miss Frost for example - that really seems obscene.

There are no demarcations in this book. Dangerfield heads down to the area of Dublin near the sea. We are wondering at this point if he is swindling a woman he seduced, or preparing to keep his word and take this woman away from her evil father. As he goes about his ambivalent doings, Dangerfield thinks of creatures that inhabit the rock pools of this seashore, cut off from the ocean in what he calls their "crystal cradles".

There's no danger of living in a rock pool when you read The Ginger Man. The ocean rolls in, sweeps over little ponds and takes you away.

You could say Dangerfield is a loveable rogue, but you'd be wrong. He won't stay in any rock pool for loveable rogues. Dangerfield is a monster. He is lovable. It is remarkable that Donleavy got those two things to exist so powerfully together. I suppose, as Booth Tarkerton said in relation to one of his own loveable rogues, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repented than over all the saints who consistently remain holy.

Technically the writing also avoids rock pools, switching between first and third person.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of J P's best if you are a fan of his writing
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Format: Paperback
Over-rated. Might have been a tad risqué and edgy back in the 50s but now very dated. Bit like Henry Miller but without the sparkle or genuine insight. On the plus side, the story is well paced and Donleavy's descriptive stream of consciousness style effective at times, but unfortunately more often than not sub-Joycean pretension. Worst, the comic set pieces are just not funny, witty or inventive. If you have a penchant for alcoholic woman beaters and writers who overly romanticise 'Irishness' (the type Irish/American writers often fall prey to) and like clichéd drunken ranting monologues about the mother country, then this could be for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
By page 45 it had become a sort of annoying drone, going nowhere and not interesting.
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Format: Paperback
Sebastian Dangerfield is in no way purported to be a model human being. Donleavy puts all of Sebastian's flaws out in the open: Sebastian is a vulgar, abusive, and irresponsible alcoholic. Sebastian is in no way the gallant, classic, and Victorian hero of the past. He is instead the rejection of all that was pure and virginal in previous works of literature. He is the product of Modernism.

Modernism as part of its very foundation sought to shock people. I think of Sebastian Dangerfield as a literary equivalent of the shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. Will reading how Sebastian hits his wife make readers hit their spouse? Will listening to Marilyn Manson turn people into gothic murderers? Everyone has their own opinion as answer to those questions but it seems obvious to me that readers (and music listeners) need to realize that human beings are not the sugar coated ladies and gentlemen of yore. People do some terrible things. Everyone has a dark side, no matter how slight. I was not at all offended by The Ginger Man. Perhaps it was the fact that I was introduced to the text in the anything-goes Modernist context, perhaps I am a little too liberal. I will always find this book uproariously funny though. I can always side with a character that can make commentary on the human condition without doting clichés. I can at once laugh at Sebastian and be amused by him, without being "on his side" - his very dark side.
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Format: Paperback
I became aware of this book after recently reading a Hunter S. Thompson biography, wherein it describes how Hunter discovered the book in New York, and did his best to imitate Dangerfield's lifestyle. After reading the Ginger Man it became apparent that Hunter had at last found a hard act to follow in terms of womanising, alcohol abuse and empty promises.

Apparently the Ginger Man was turned down by something like 40 publishers before finding it's way to the mainly pornographic publishers Olympia Press in Paris. Despite turning out mostly smut, Olympia owner Maurice Girodias also published some early works by the likes of Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Henry Miller and Jean Genet amongst other rising literary talents of the time.

I mention the publication as it's interesting to note that Donleavy entered into 20 plus years of litigation with the publishing house. He eventually won the case and subsequently owns Olympia Press.

But anyway, the book. It is, for better or worse, very real. The "hero" Sebastian Dangerfield is a reluctant family man and a reluctant student of law. He just doesn't care about the things which we assume he should care about. He is constantly in a state of scheming his way into the next free drink, or getting into the knickers of an easily led girl. He has no morals, nor does he feel that he should have. He is banking on an inherited wealth which will be his once his sick father dies.

The style of the book is modern for the time of it's writing. Donleavy uses both the first person narrative and the third person narrative to illustrate his main character.
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