Review by Rory Brennan

Just who was the Ginger Man?

The Ginger Man Letters: correspondence by J.P. Donleavy, Gainor Crist and A.K. Donoghue. Bill Dunn (ed.). Lilliput Press; 416pp; €25/£22 hb; 24cm; 978-1-84351-747-4.


Who was the model for the Ginger Man, the riotous, alcoholic and lecherous hero of J.P. Donleavy’s once-scandalous novel? First, let me enquire if you are sitting comfortably or simply sipping your first black pint of the morning in a mahogany and frosted glass snug? OK? Let me reveal all. The Ginger Man was Prufrock! Yes, the full J. Alfred. For all his rumbustious behaviour the Ginger Man was a well-tailored dandy. There is a photo of him in this enigmatic collection of letters to and by Donleavy that shows the gingery one posed against a wall in Trinity College, clad in a neat overcoat, polished shoes, white shirt and wearing (scarcely sporting) a bowtie. He carries an antique electric fire as if it were a briefcase. He wears a semi-guilty, bemused expression. He looks, like Prufrock, as if he cannot wait to wear the bottoms of his trousers rolled. The caption tells us he is about to pawn the heater. One suspects it is the property of the College of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. He has a smudge of a moustache. He stands upright but does not seem a military man, though he had, like Donleavy, served in the US Navy in World War II. Can this really be the Ginger Man? Yes, afraid so, though he was a few other people as well. […]

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January/February 2019 (issue no.383)

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