J.P Donleavy: An Author and His Image
By: J.P. Donleavy
Publication Date: October 2011
J.P Donleavy has been writing now for forty-five years and, as he admits, an answer to the question why is ‘ difficult to dig out of a long past’. Yet over these pages the author’s query is largely answered for him: he has written so much for so long because he writes so very well. From the banks of the Seine to the streets of the Bronx, from the stables of the Dublin Horse Show to cocktails at Claridge’s, we are transported by these collected short pieces into the singular and spirited world of J. P. Donleavy. Bringing an uncommonly objective yet affectionate eye to his writings on his own birthplace, America, balancing unabashed adoration with good-humoured bewilderment in his depiction of his heart’s home, Ireland, the author presents us with a fresh, engaging vista that could only be his own. Whether reviewing a book on sexual exercises for women or paying homage to Yeats, the impress is unmistakably Donleavy’s.
The initial publication of these pieces in various newspapers and journals around the world gave the author particular pleasure because he knew that he would reach people who were not normally book readers. However, he admits that the fate of most periodicals and newspapers is to be used to ‘wrap fish, keep vagrants warm and help light fires’. Books, on the other hand, ‘preserve their pages better between covers’, and with their publication here he hopes that ‘these pieces separately written over these many years can now keep each other company’. An Author and His Image by J.P Donleavy offers a comprehensive overview of one of the most original and incisive voices of the last half-century.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.P. ‘Mike’ Donleavy (1926–2017) wrote more than twenty books after The Ginger Man, including The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B (1968), A Fairy Tale of New York (1973), The Onion Eaters (1971) and Schultz (1979) (all available as eBooks from Lilliput), along with several works of non-fiction such as The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival and Manners (1975). He lived along the shores of Lough Owel near Mullingar in County Westmeath. Watch J.P. Donleavy win the An Post Lifetime Achievement Award 2015.
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Lilliput Press –
“Insights emerge from the great writing without being over announced by the writer. Donleavy doesn’t smack you in the face with his brilliance- it dawns on you slowly.” JONATHAN FREILICH
Lilliput Press –
“Recently, I was preparing for a weekend trip and looked throughout the Kindle list of electronic Donleavy to decide which of his works to read again. I was more than pleased to find this collection, published in 2011, about which I previously had not known.
Entering again the unique world of Donleavy was like spending time with an old and treasured friend. Not only did my reading of this collection enhance the time I spent on my trip but, as with the best of JP Donleavy’s work, it added to my appreciation of life experiences even after I finished the volume.
The book includes 9 parts, each with at least 5 entries. In People and Places, the author provides portraits from the Bronx to London. The section on sports includes essays on boxing, tennis, sexual exercises for woman and cricket. Here, Donleavy shares advice learned after many years and experiences: “How then do you have the best time of your life. Ah, all you do is sit, wait and watch and play cricket while sipping a cool wine of Sancerre between the overs.” Entire sections are devoted to Dublin and to Ireland, then and now. Donleavy writes of other authors and friends’ funerals.
The finest and most representative sections are those that deal with Mortality, Affairs of the Heart and the author’s unique take on Etiquette. As the reader samples these sections, he will come across the usual and often melancholic observations of the author. He talks of “passing through persons none of whom sport those faces bewildered by life which at least do one the honor of readily admitting that we are all mostly drowning our sorrow and fighting back our despair.” He observes that “we all want to rise above our station and, preferably, keep others permanently in theirs.”
The essence of Donleavy is that he has experienced and can express the heartache of lost love, the barren nature of personal failure and, now, a dawning vision of mortality while at the same time expressing the richness of everyday human experience in a style as expressive as that of Thomas Wolfe but with masterly restraint. As a result, reading Donleavy is, at its best, both a literary experience and an enhancement of the lived life.
The author teaches us that the perfect moment is worth all as long as it is realized. “Yet to me,” observes the author, “all the best in civilization comes simply with being able to take one’s perambulating reverie. Along a sunny street. Playing romantic space shuttle in one’s own world of dreams.””