May 25th, 2019


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The Ginger Man, by J. P. Donleavy

Second paragraph of third chapter:
A wet salty wind. And tomorrow Marion comes back. And the two of us sit here wagging our American legs. Marion, stay away a little longer, please. Don’t want the pincers on me just yet. Greasy dishes or baby’s dirty bottom, I just want to watch them sailing. We need a nurse for baby to wheel her around some public park where I can’t hear the squeals. Or maybe the two of you will get killed in a train wreck and your father foot the bill for burial. Well-bred people never fight over the price of death. And it’s not cheap these days. Just look a bit glassy eyed for a month and take off for Paris. Some nice quiet hotel in Rue de Seine and float fresh fruit in a basin of cool water. Your long winter body lying naked on the slate and what would I be thinking if I touched your dead breast. Must get a half crown out of O’Keefe before he goes. I wonder what makes him so tight with money.
I bought this after Donleavy died, as I'm always interested in books set in Dublin from the external perspective. The time is roughly 1948, the place more or less Trinity College and the Dublin of student accommodation; Sebastian Dangerfield, Donleavy's protagonist, runs between women and beds, drinking ruinously, stealing to survive as he has already spent his inheritance. He's a thoroughly unpleasant character and I didn't much enjoy reading about him. I appreciated the literary salutes to other writers, particularly Joyce of course, but after a while they got rather laboured and the humour of the book is painful and dated. Not really recommended, but if you want, you can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2017. Next on that list is Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky.