The History of the Ginger Man: An Autobiography
By: J.P. Donleavy
Publication Date: October 2011
The History of the Ginger Man: An Autobiography is the dramatic story of J. P. Donleavy’s personal struggle to create and publish a book that became a twentieth-century masterpiece: The Ginger Man .
It is literally history combined with Donleavy’s autobiography – from his childhood in the Bronx, education at Catholic schools, service in the U.S. Navy, and travels, to his current life as proprietor of a landed estate in the midlands of Ireland. Trinity College in Dublin after World War II was a mecca for adventurous Americans who used the G.I. Bill as a passport to higher education,. Among them were able-bodied seamen, second class J.P. ‘Mike’ Donleavy, fighter pilot George Roy Hill (now a celebrated Hollywood actor), and a naval yeoman Gainor Stephen Crist, a Midwestern rara avis and model for the Ginger Man.
Student life included degrees in debauchery; drunken brawls in Dublin pubs; comic capers with the playwright Brendan Behan; eccentric Anglo-Irish aristocrats; living on miraculous credit and in constant debt with plenty of time for the seduction of nice Catholic girls. Donleavy, impecunious and newly married, began to write The Ginger Man in a primitive isolated cottage at Kilcoole. He completed the book over a period of four years on two continents.
The Ginger Man was rejected by nearly thirty-five American and British publishers. The book was finally published in Paris in 1955 by Maurice Girondias of the Olympia Press as a work of pornography. Twenty-five years of bitter litigation between Donleavy and Girodias followed, with Donleavy emerging triumphant as sole owner of Olympia and its copyrights, including that of The Ginger Man.
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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