To everyone who has found the way here and to anyone who has ever read a J.P. Donleavy book, the experience is common. While enjoying the story, the colorful characters and the idiosyncratic style, there comes the inevitable abrupt stop.
You back up, re-read a particular sentence or two or the last paragraph, even a single word again and possibly again to savor and ponder it and enjoy it some more.
It can be a conversational exchange between two characters. Or a letter, of which there are many throughout Donleavy fiction, e.g., Sylvia’s letter to her husband Hugo, which begins: “I hope this letter finds you as sick as your letter made me. … ”
Or, without warning, buried in the narrative comes the discovery of a turn of phrase (last will and testicle), a JPD preferred spelling (limozine), a legalistic phrase of intimidation worth remembering (only for the moment are we saying nothing), a great opening line to be re-used when being interviewed for a job (Mr. Mott, I’d like to make money). Then there are the priceless poems that close many chapters.
More than a few readers pick up a Donleavy work prepared with pen and paper in anticipation of discovery to record a particular phrase or sentence for future reference and enjoyment.
And, at least one Donleavy gem, from The Ginger Man, was recorded by an appreciative reader in wet cement at the University of Iowa. J.P., a scheduled speaker at the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop sometime in the mid-1970s, was strolling through the campus when he chanced to look down and read his own words inscribed in the sidewalk:
All I want
Is one break
Which is not
Herewith the J.P. Donleavy Compendium’s list to which we will no doubt be adding. We invite readers to send us their favorites.
The Editors, JPDC
is turning life's worst moments into money."
"The difference between sex and death is that with death you can do it alone and no one is
going to make fun of you."
"Whenever anyone says, 'theoretically,' they really mean 'not really'."
"If you're going to love somebody, love somebody who needs it."
"The purpose of writing is to make your mother and father drop dead with shame."
"Kicking the shit out of the goose that laid the golden egg is a great Irish tradition."
"If there's a sickness in American life, it's the lack of materialism"
"Rid the mind of knowledge when looking for pleasure. Or start thinking and find a lot of pain."
"To make any statement about the Irish character, it is usually best to say it in a story."
"Never underestimate your adversary, not even in a snowball fight."
"To marry the Irish is to look for poverty."
"Electronic books are a bad thing because they cannot be accumulated on shelves to remind you of your past, to impress your neighbors and colleagues, and to help prevent divorces thanks to the sheer bother of arguing over who owns what."
"When I'm dead, I hope it may be said: his sins were scarlet, but his books were read."
"The Irish will always see both sides of an argument so long as it can result in a fight."
"...I've always been
prepared to stand up and fight for my beliefs. I'm prepared to die for them.
Of course, the risk always is that someone will come along and kill you. "
Quotes From Books
"There was a man
Who made a boat
To sail away
And it sank." from The Ginger Man
"Expect the worst
And that's what
Only it will be
Much worse." from Schultz
"All the way
From the land
Is a man
From the dead
Stood in the street
And stamped his feet
And no one heard him." from The Ginger Man
"It is the random
So nice." from The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
"My heart is like
A squeezed grape.
Only the pip is left.
Only the pip." from The Ginger Man
city that is too rich to laugh at and too lonely and ruthless to love and
A big cat
With a mouse
On a square mile
Of linoleum." from A Fairy Tale of New York
"Get astride me,
Touch, whoops, tender
Mr. big tree of love." from The Ginger Man
"See all the women seated, youth in their face lifts, old age in their hands." from The Lady Who Liked Clean Rest Rooms
"Do you mind if I
"Not at all."
"You look like a bank clerk or perhaps someone who works in a coal office. Except for that
"I stole that from an American friend."
"I must say you're the most curious American I've ever met. I don't like them as a rule."
"They're a fine, fleshy race." from The Ginger Man
" I shall not from you you big bear, take any of your semantic battering in this Buttery." from The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman
Please" from The Ginger Man
"And O God there may be few laughs left in me but they're not never ever going to come out unless there is a laugh left in somebody else somewhere and he laughs first." from The Lady Who Liked Clean Rest Rooms
"Have you seen a
lot of women?"
"Wouldn't say a lot."
"And what were they like?"
"Naked." from The Ginger Man
"Now before we pull
own little anchor, let's sing a
song. A good old naval song.
'Tell your troubles to Jesus
The Chaplain has gone
over the stern
and is floating away
On the waves'" from Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton
"Five years ago I had a plan to straighten myself out. Here I am thousands of dollars later with one more insight. That you grow older faster staying in the same place." from The Saddest Summer of Samuel S
In apple green
Sadness." from A Singular Man
are they who in this sea of frailty,
climb aboard a piece of ass as it floats by." from The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
(On growing old)
"It's not nice but take comfort that you won't stay that way forever." from The Unexpurgated Code
"The animal wants its back protected and to eat. Man is that animal and when he has eaten, he deals in art and artifice, and it becomes lie and compromise; a soft, ingrate murmur of accents and incomes. They tell you to have Horace Ictericton Bart, open your show, it will get a picture in the paper and give the opening 'class'; this is the universal feeling, the feeling to which all animals respond; the great aesthetic communion without body odour. Where do we go for love?" from JP Donleavy's Ireland
"In this little room. I can only smile. A tram rumbling by. And twiddle my thumbs. And take some of these newspapers and just squash them up and wee, into the grate. Little match. My room is orange. Must see me Chris tomorrow, maybe at night time. I can only think of standing in the Glen of Downs smelling the garlic or on the banks of the Barrow, a summer evening out on a lark sprinkled air, and last songs and salmon leaping. Fingers of the night touching me. Honeysuckle sorrow. Humming. I must weep." from The Ginger Man
"My God I am an animal
lover Mr. Clementine but really this is not on. Haven't you got that dog house
"Only in four rooms." from The Onion Eaters
I have caught my neck in a
mangle and will be indisposed
for eternity." from The Ginger Man
"Kiss my bazumma." from A Singular Man
"I'm all for Christianity, but insolence must be put down." from The Ginger Man
who are you. '
'Who are you.'
'I asked you first.'
'I am Fang.'
'You like dogs, Mr. Fang.'" from A Singular Man
"Every madman thinks everyone else mad." The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman
UP WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS
SAYS THE TRUE
AND ONLY ZORRO" from Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton
On the plant
The leaf." from The Ginger Man
STRIKE KNOB HARD
AIM AT FIRE BASE
USE ON ONLY CLASS A FIRES
NOT ELECTRICAL OR FLAMMABLE LIQUID
OR IRISH ONES from A Singular Country
"God's miserable teeth" - from The Ginger Man
"...Be damned sir, the mumpish miseries, and let's say hello to wholesome perspiration." from De Alfonce Tennis
“When you get back Kenneth, I’ll walk naked wearing a green bowler to greet you at the boat. With a donkey cart flying green streamers and green shamrocks imported from Czechoslovakia and a band of girl pipers blowing like mad. Did you know that they imported the English sparrow into America to eat horseshit off the streets?” from The Ginger Man
"And money is one of the motives for becoming a writer. The others are leisure and money, women and money, and sometimes just money all alone by itself." from An Author and His Image
“The sun of Sunday morning up out of the sleepless sea from black Liverpool. Sitting on the rocks over the water with a jug of coffee. Down there along the harbor pier, trippers in bright colors. Sails moving out to sea. Young couples climbing the Balscaddoon Road to the top of Kilrock to search out grass and lie between the furze. A cold green sea breaking whitely along the granite coast. A day on which all things are born, like uncovered stars.” from The Ginger Man
"His name is Jones. He was born a bastard in Swansea. And was down the coal mines at fourteen. Leaving him with a crippled finger and a long scar on a thin white leg. He served in the Second World War as a desert rat. He now keeps a green sliver of a bar of soap in one pocket and a comb in another. He speaks with the wisdom of those without hope. Still possessed of his rage, he shakes a fist at the world but then suddenly crumbles into tears. As I hear his words, so many snobberies away from the glamour of Wimbledon. 'I don't know who you are, but I'll tell you one thing, you're a charming man.' I reach into my pocket for a one pound coin. And a smile breaks across his weathered face. 'And I'll tell you another thing. I bloody well knew you'd finally give me some money.'" from An Author and His Image
"Ginny Cupper took me in her car out to the spread fields of Indiana. Parking near the edge of woods and walking out into the sunny rows of corn, waving seeds to a yellow horizon. She wore a white blouse and a gray patch of sweat under her arms and the shadow of her nipples was gray. We were rich. So rich we could never die. Ginny laughed and laughed, white saliva on her teeth lighting up the deep red of her mouth, fed the finest food in the world. Ginny was afraid of nothing. She was young and old. Her brown arms and legs swinging in wild optimism, beautiful in all their parts. She danced on the long hood of her crimson Cadillac, and watching her, I thought that God must be female. She leaped into my arms and knocked me to the ground and screamed into my mouth." from The Ginger Man
To purchase books by J.P. Donleavy, go to the Buyers' Guide.