Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day


An article in the New York Times Style Magazine about the writer J. P. Donleavy, with a page-and-a-half photo of the man himself standing in front of his stately pile of a house in Mullingar, Ireland. Who would have guessed? Haven't heard of Donleavy for years. Assumed he was dead.

But no, there he is, at age 87, looking rather down-at-heels, but in a genteel, eccentric, country-farmer sort of way, as you'd expect. More power to him.

Folks of my generation -- mostly males, I would suppose -– will remember him as the author of that naughty book The Ginger Man, which we read with sly delight, at about the same time and for much the same reason as we read Siddhartha and On the Road. It was just one of those books we were supposed to read. In my case, it was a warm-up for James Joyce's Ulysses, and once I'd been down the joycean road I never looked back.

It would be fun to line up all the books I've read in the order in which I read them. It would be an autobiography of sorts. Siddhatha and The Ginger Man -- boy, there's a combination for you. The idealism and raging hormones of youth.

The funny thing is, I can't remember what it was that made The Ginger Man ostensibly salacious, but I remember vividly Stephen Dedalus in Portrait of the Artist watching the barefoot girl on Dollymount Strand hike up her skirts in the surf.

What was banned for obscenity in the Fifties would be pretty tame reading today. The world has turned and me with it. It occurs to me that I should read The Ginger Man again (45 million copies, still in print). I'm sure it's available with my wife's Kindle. Give me a few days. I'll get back to you.