"To make any statement about the Irish character, it is usually best to say it in a story."

J.P. Donleavy

Photo by Patrick Prendergast
The following review first appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 27, 1998.

"Wrong Information is Being Given Out at Princeton"

by Susan Salter Reynolds

In Donleavy's day, just after World War II when this novel is set, if you had the right shoes and joined the right clubs and went to the right schools, oh yes, it helped if there was something about the Mayflower in there too, you could have a good time in New York in your 20s and even 30s (pasta was not on the menu) and believe with all your soul that you had the right information. After that, your choices narrowed to alcoholic or bureaucratic, either one morose and myopic.

Donleavy never spells out what the wrong information is exactly it's just something a prophetic stranger says to his main character, Stephen O'Kelly'O, a handsome out-of-work-out-of-pocket Irish composer, just before he notices a beautiful girl, who minutes later, gets shot in the train station in barbaric, mean, cold-hearted New York in winter. Donleavy's heirloom style is a combination of P.G. Wodehouse and F. Scott Fitzgerald, in both of whose novels, as in this one, things mattered a great deal. But there is also the Irishman's constant awareness of the working man, the janitor, the conductor, the doorman. Not to mention the bawdiness, the randiness and the effort to bob through life like a cork on the water thumbing the currents.

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