of Lowly Causes"
by Sally S. Eckhoff
If you can stand to raise
your stricken face from your poolside reading and have people ask what the
heck is the matter with you, this is precisely the book you need. Just don't
imitate the characters. You'll never survive your vacation.
J.P. Donleavy, an American-born Irishman, made his mark on the literary world in the '60s with The Ginger Man. Maybe the frisson of reading something unfairly pegged as pornographic was irresistible, or maybe the technical innovations of Donleavy's prose were so refreshing: Readers couldn't get enough of the novel, and made its author so cultishy famous he got fan calls from street-corner phone booths in Hawaii. The secret is that this, his second [sic - third] novel, is the better book. Whereas The Ginger Man's Sebastian Dangerfield is a catastrophe in human form, the eponymous hero of The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B (Atlantic Monthly Press, $7.95 paper) ennobles lowly causes and proves that the love that purifies is the only thing that matters. That Balthazar's lowly causes include hiding prostitutes in the woodbox at Trinity College and that in between bouts of purification he tends to wind up drunk in the hands of the police only further glorify his desperate heart. His is the best love story in modern fiction, and Fitzdare, his mysterious sweetheart, is both an Irish Annie Oakley and a saint.