Feb 23, 2006

The Ginger Man turns 50

If you haven't read JP Donleavy's The Ginger Man you're in for a treat. It's a comic tour de force.
A LITTLE MORE THAN 50 years ago, in a Dublin known for its wild young and its fidgety devout, and a Europe still struggling after years of war, a holy terror by the name of Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield was inflicted upon the world. Rich son and busted husband, wife-beater and maudlin romantic, personal friend to Christ and bitter foe to any Papist worth his weight in holy pendants-few knew what to make of him then, even fewer now, but the fact that he's never left us is a measure of his worth.

Dangerfield is the hero of J.P. Donleavy's ''The Ginger Man." First published in Paris in 1955, it tells the raucous story of an Irish-American ex-pat living in bohemian Dublin after the war. His wife, an upper-class English woman with whom he's sired a child, has begun to realize the magnitude of her error. Her husband-27 years old and capable of great displays of soul and poetical charm-is flunking law at Trinity. Up to his eyeballs in debt, dogged by landlords, soaked with drink, cadging off of friends and strange women, he's as prone to rhapsodize about the sadness and beauty of Ireland as he is to scatter the teeth of her more savage inhabitants.

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