Saturday 23 June 2018

A personal life almost as tangled as his likeable rake's

The Ginger Man was JP Donleavy's only hit - but what a classic, writes Liam Collins

WORTH ITS WEIGHT: A first edition copy of ‘The Ginger Man’, published in 1955 by the
Olympia Press in Paris
WORTH ITS WEIGHT: A first edition copy of ‘The Ginger Man’, published in 1955 by the Olympia Press in Paris
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

In some ways, JP Donleavy was a one-hit wonder with his novel The Ginger Man - but what a hit it was.

The tragic/comic chronicle of the dissolute life of Sebastian Dangerfield in bohemian Dublin in the late 1940s, an era now bookended by the death of its author in Mullingar at the age of 91, has sold tens of millions of copies since its 1955 publication. He was something of a Renaissance man, a writer, artist, pugilist and advocate of 'real tennis'.

Despite relatively humble beginnings in New York, he later affected an Anglo-Irish lifestyle in Levington Park, a rambling pile on the shores of Lough Owel outside Mullingar, where he came to live in the early 1970s, after returning to Ireland in 1969 to avail of Charlie Haughey's tax exemption for writers and artists.

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