of the Rogue"
By Howard Junker
Hooray, The Ginger Man liveth! No longer mired in moral/financial squalor.No longer vicious in his pratfalls. In fact, rather mellow, resigned and shy, his desperations bittersweet, based on such Ungingermanly feelings as tenderness, a respect for the proprieties and loyalty.
It has taken J.P. Donleavy, 42, some dozen years, two novels, three stage adaptations, an original play and a volume of short stories to break free of his roguish, anarchic, language-mongering anti-hero, Sebastian Dangerfield. But at last he has produced an equal, a new original, the well-turned-out, reticent but eloquent misfortunate, Balthazar B. as a precocious child in Paris on the Avenue Foch, Balthazar declares he is not to be called a "dear little chap. I am a small human being." As a schoolboy in Britain, he outfaces two callow, inquisitorial masters, Slouch and Crunch. Later, reading zoology at Dublin's Trinity College, he speaks to a classmate, the lovely horsewoman Fitzdare, but only after an excess of party sherry, so that upon returning home he collapses in the garden of a married lady recently informed, by the papers, that Mohammedan rapists are moving through the land.
Balthazar is a gentleman without portfolio, incapable of ambition, but blessedly free (unlike the Ginger Man) of swinishness. He is prepared to float as the tide goes, or stand fast, often at the side of his chum Beefy, a master of verbal and carnal hyperbole, a profligate mixer of lechery and religion.
Witty: the combination Balthazar-Beefy is always amusing and sad and rhetorically extravagant. One measure of Donleavy's maturity is precisely his ability to motivate this pair without calling up spite, malaise or outrage. They exist in a mellow, though slightly ridiculous and offensive world. Their alternative to the world's foibles and failing is more pleasure, more audacious, fabulous larks. For the first time, too, Donleavy is able to render women who are loving and witty and generous. Hortense, the instructive nanny; Breda, provider of shelter on a cold, wet night; Alphonsine, complaisant au-pair girl. Even Balthazar's mother, a beautiful, self-indulgent woman who ultimately abandons him, is seen with a sophistication and depth of feeling Donleavy has not displayed before.
Marvelous, as always, is Donleavy's language, dredged from the bogs of Ireland, drenched in Gevry-Chambertin. This language embellishes incident piled on hilarious, marvelously invented incident - encounters with sly Trinity proctors, disportings, disappointments, scenes of domestic life and strife, sexual spectaculars, small joys and further sadness. It is Donleavy at his best, eloquent, roguish, and at last one with his world and the terrible sadness it contains.
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