Monday, October 1, 2007

Modern Library Top 100: #99 - The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy (1955)

What a foul, loathsome, pretentious novel this one was. Sebastian Dangerfield is an American expat carousing about the streets of Dublin in the aftermath of World War 2, doing the usual things people do in picaresque novels: smoke, drink, and fuck, and to hell with the consequences.

Now, I don't have a real problem with the ribald anti-hero per se, but Dangerfield is something beyond that. He beats his wife, threatens infanticide, spends all his family's food money and screws over his friends. All of this is done without the barest hint of redemption--Dangerfield doesn't really change over the course of the "plot," if such a thing could be said to exist here--it's mostly just a series of loosely connected moments. Clearly we're meant to sympathize with the Ginger Man a bit, because he often falls into some sort of reflection about how sensitive he is (ginger can be both sharp and sweet, you see), but his sensitivity is more about questioning why people loathe him and why he doesn't get everything he wants, right away.

Donleavy's prose is undeniably beautiful, and he ends many chapters with frequently affecting doggerel ("All I want / Is just one break / Which is not / My Neck"), but beautiful wrapping can't contain the rottenness within.

1 comment:

The Green Consumer said...

Stop being such a purist and torturing yourself. Skip to the good shit!