"I must write a musical score to dramatize marching a naked football player out of his Houston house and down the elegant rich suburban public street and to which the national anthem of Texas can be sung.
Son of a bitch
I'm going to make you pay
The eyes of Texas are upon you
All the live long day."
- J.P. Donleavy from Wrong Information is Being Given Out at Princeton
Snare to Snare Fiction - Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton"
By Peter Buckman
IT IS wonderful to report that the author of The Ginger Man, now in his seventies, is writing as vigorously as ever. In his new book, the tumbling prose that swoops from pedantry to poetic, fracturing grammar but always making perfect sense, is at the service of a fable that is both tragic and romantic. When it comes to being caught in the snare of sex, poverty, or high society, no one can ferment the language of frustration better than Donleavy.
Alfonso Stephen O'Kelly'O returns from war service in the navy and is whisked into marriage by the beautiful Sylvia, adopted daughter of the absurdly rich Triumphingtons. Sylvia is searching for her real parents and envies Stephen his family, descendants of legendary Irish kings, and more recently, bootleggers. She abandons him, however, after he breaks the bed in a sexual encounter with a black singer. Stephen is then taken up by Sylvia's adoptive mother Drusilla, who has a taste for snakes and masochistic sex.
Farcical encounters are related with the same puzzled earnestness as the tragedies Stephen seems to engender: the words of the title are confided by a passing stranger, and when Stephen jocularly relates them to a beautiful young woman seeking information about a bus, she shoots herself. This is a novel that hurtles through life, death, and all stations in-between without chapter breaks, moving us on chronologically without noticing how quickly time is passing. And it has a bittersweet ending without a trace of whimsy.
Donleavy's idiosyncratic style - his refusal to employ question marks, his ending of sentences at odd points - sometimes becomes as mannered as the dialogue of his narrator. But then he will rock you with a description that gets to the soul of his subject, couched in a language as much his own as was Damon Runyon's.
There are few writers who can send a story soaring while being sexy, funny, bilious and wise. Here is a novel to savour as you would a glass of well-poured stout.