"Never underestimate your adversary, not even in a snowball fight."

J.P. Donleavy from The History of The Ginger Man
This review of The History of The Ginger Man first appeared in Booklist, 1994. Many thanks to Alice Joyce for permission to add it to this site.
Alice Joyce

"Review of The History of The Ginger Man"

by Alice Joyce

With the Olympia Press' issuing of Donleavy's first and best-known work, The Ginger Man, an interminable, 21-year legal battle ensued between author and publisher. The distinctive cadences of Donleavy's prose enliven this autobiographical account that meanders through the years leading up to the appearance of his book in print and subsequent altercation between publishers.

From Dublin's Trinity College to a dismal row house in London's Fulham district, Donleavy recalls the settings of his struggles as a writer while supporting a young family. Accompanying him on numerous pub-crawling jaunts amid fisticuffs are the likes of Brendan Behan and a colorful cast of characters - many of whom were the basis for characters in The Ginger Man.

Other literati (Edna O' Brien, Muriel Spark, etc.) help animate the rambling narrative. Toward the end of the book, the pace picks up, engaging the reader more fully in the ups and downs of Donleavy's literary career in the making.

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