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J. P. Donleavy (James Patrick Donleavy) Biography

(1926– ), (James Patrick Donleavy), The Ginger Man, Fairy Tales of New York, A Singular Man

Irish novelist and playwright, born in America. His literary reputation rests to a large extent on his first novel, The Ginger Man (1955), which was first published in Paris by the Olympia Press, well known as publishers of erotica. An expurgated version was published in New York in 1958 and a ‘complete and unexpurgated’ edition in 1965, also in New York. The novel describes the adventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, an American, ostensibly studying law at Trinity College, Dublin. He is, as the narrative makes clear, a lazy, lying, sponging philanderer, with a genius for getting himself out of impossibly difficult situations; his behaviour to everyone—wife, friend, mistresses, landlords, and shopkeepers—is outrageous, and he is particularly adept at exploiting women, financially and sexually. The action is seen from Dangerfield's point of view. Donleavy's prose has reminded some of Joyce, especially in its loving evocation of Dublin and in its sexually frank language. Donleavy's first play, Fairy Tales of New York, opened in London in 1960. It consists of four loosely connected episodes in which a young man, Cornelius Christian, is involved in a bizarre situation, and may be considered an example of Theatre of the Absurd. After beginning with such distinction, Donleavy's subsequent work has been perhaps less successful. The comic magic of The Ginger Man has proved unrepeatable. His other novels include A Singular Man (1961); The Saddest Summer of Samuel S (1966); The Onion Eaters (1971); Shultz (1980); Leila (1983); Are You Listening, Rabbi Low? (1987); and That Darcy, That Dancer, That Gentleman (1991). He has also published a collection of short stories, Meet My Maker, the Mad Molecule (1964). He has adapted a number of his novels, including The Ginger Man, for the stage. A love of Ireland is apparent in his work and in 1967 he became an Irish citizen. The History of the Ginger Man (1994) is chiefly a memoir of post-war Dublin, about the people and circumstances surrounding the making of the Ginger Man.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Walter John De La Mare Biography to Hilda Doolittle Biography