The Ginger Man Question #20 - Comparisons with Other Authors

by J.P. Donleavy

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The Ginger Man Question #20 - Comparisons with Other Authors

Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:41 am

How would you compare GM with OTR? With any other authors we have read?
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Unread postby Endora » Sat Apr 22, 2006 12:50 pm

Not very favourably. I find OTR a positive and life affirming book, it encourages one to take chances and look for the good. TGM did none of these things for me, although the styles and constructions were similar in that they are both picaresque and are written as trains of thought. Maybe on close examination TGM has a richer language, but to me that makes it seem more like someone copying a train of thought novel, making the whole thing artificial. OTR was about Sal growing up, despite the let downs that Dean created. If OTR had had Dean as the central character it would have been much less optomistic, and much less attractive, to me at least. OTR was about moving on, but TGM was about staying where you were, mentally at least.

Second part of the question: Don't know, but there were aspects of Sebastian that put me in mind of Holden Caulfield, teenage aspects which were fine for Holden, but left me thinking "Grow up" in S's case.
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Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 22, 2006 1:11 pm

Endora wrote:Not very favourably. I find OTR a positive and life affirming book, it encourages one to take chances and look for the good. TGM did none of these things for me, although the styles and constructions were similar in that they are both picaresque and are written as trains of thought. Maybe on close examination TGM has a richer language, but to me that makes it seem more like someone copying a train of thought novel, making the whole thing artificial. OTR was about Sal growing up, despite the let downs that Dean created. If OTR had had Dean as the central character it would have been much less optomistic, and much less attractive, to me at least. OTR was about moving on, but TGM was about staying where you were, mentally at least.

Second part of the question: Don't know, but there were aspects of Sebastian that put me in mind of Holden Caulfield, teenage aspects which were fine for Holden, but left me thinking "Grow up" in S's case.


Holden Caulfield, from Catcher in the Rye? Unfortunately I never read that book. I would like to at some point, though. Interesting to note that Holden Caulfield was mentioned in the song "Trinity" by Jedi Mind Tricks.

Interesting point about Dean, Endora. OTR might have been more like GM if Dean had been the main character. I think GM is similar to OTR (and to Huckleberry Finn, another picaresque novel) in that they are novels about the adventures of two male characters—in the case of GM, that would be SD and O’Keefe. I think the stream of consciousness style is similar, but easier to read in the case of GM. And both are picaresque in that they are episodic and never ending.
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Unread postby Bix » Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:17 pm

Liz, you definitly need to put Catcher in the Rye high on your "must read" list, especially if your son reads. I've forgotten exactly how old you said he is, but it seems like he's getting near the age when Holden Caulfield might appeal to him - and Holden is a true picaresque character with whom you should be familiar. His liberal use of the f-word might seem tame today, but his longings and fears are universal and timeless.

Back to the question, it has been so long since I read OTR in college that I can't really compare the books. I did, however, think of Nick Hornby and A Long Way Down a couple of times as I read GM. I guess I remembered what a cad we thought Martin was and how awful Jess behaved. And if you rolled the worst of them together and threw in JJ and Maureen, they would still not equal Sebastian in vile behavior! And I guess Miss Frost reminded me a little of Maureen. Anyway, There is a bit of similarity in the way Hornby and Donleavy let us inside the heads of the characters.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Apr 22, 2006 9:15 pm

Comparing GM with OTR the first thing that comes to mind is the stream of consciousness writing style. I agree with you all that OTR is not as hopeless as GM but I have to say that women get similar treatment. The other author that comes to mind is HST who was a fan of Donleavy and The Ginger Man. Here are excerpts from The Proud Highway…

From the forward by William Kennedy:


“In all our early marathon conversations, a recurring subject was writers of originality: how the power of language set them apart, how their story, not their ideas, was supreme, and for an idea to find houseroom it needed embodiment in the narrative or it was worthless…Hunter identified with literary outsiders: Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Donleavy’s Ginger Man…There was always an element of sardonic one-upsmanship in the young Hunter S. Thompson:…warning Norman Mailer to watch his backside because ‘HST’ was in the middle of writing the ‘Great Puerto Rican Novel.’ If Hemmingway, rifle in hand, had hunted big game around Mt. Kilimanjaro, then Thompson would stalk wild boar with a Bowie knife in Big Sur. If J.P. Donleavy’s Ginger Man ordered five whiskeys to go , Thompson ordered five bottles.”


Douglas Brinkley says in an introduction to a letter HST wrote to Donleavy,
“Donleavy’s The Ginger Man remains one of Thompson’s all-time favorite novels. Perhaps more than any other influence, Donleavy’s work taught Thompson the importance of writing in a voice without restraint.”


December 8, 1960
Big Sur

Mr. Donleavy:
I’ve been waiting since The Ginger Man for your next effort, a thing the grapevine led me to believe would be called Helen. But all I’ve seen is your short farce on The Beat Generation and Angry Young Men.

Is Helen out? If so, where is it? And if it isn’t, have you done anyting big since The Ginger Man?

The Gm, by the way, had real balls, a rare thing in these twisted times. I heard the priests gave you a rough time with the stage version, but to hell with them. The church is on its last legs and if we deal them blow for blow I think wemay prevail.

At any rate, let me know if you have anything new in the bookstores. I’m stuck out here, writing the Great Puerto Rican Novel, and I’d like to know if anybody’s running interference for me.

If you get to Big Sur, stop in.

Cheers,
Hunter S. Thompson


In another letter to an old friend, Lionel Olay, HST wrote,

October 25, 1963
Woody Creek (yeah)

“Well, Lionel I see a chap named Donleavy has just written a book. He never made it to Beverly Glen, or even Esquire, but he can write the balls off of every punk who did--including me. The Observer sent me a review copy yesterday and I read it straight through. Real tough, I believe in people again. The Ginger Man grew up and got human. Now that you’ve taken personal journalism about as far as it can go, why don’t you read Singular Man (Donleavy’s book) and then get back to the real work? It’ll be out November 7. You can date your shame from that day on. And me too. I’m not dumping on you old sport—just giving the needle. I just wish to s**t that I had somebody within 500 miles capable fo giving me one. It took Donleavy’s book to make me see what a fog I’ve been in.”



So, I suppose that HST is the one author we have read that comes to mind. I think there are similarities besides just the “give ‘em hell” attitude. The Ginger Man was very original in style and that is certainly something we can say about Hunter and his writing.
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Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:05 pm

Bix, I agree that there are similarities between Maureen & Miss Frost. They both lack self-confidence and tend to be the martyr types. And I can see some similarities between Martin and SD--two womanizers who think they are God's gift to the world. I think Martin wised up, though.

DITHOT, what a great find in those letters. Thanks for sharing those.


And my son is not a reader, Bix, BUT he is currently reading F&LILV. I can't believe I actually let him. :blush: But someone else in his English class was reading it, and he shared with that student what he knew about it and Hunter (from me). So I asked him if he wanted to read it. He's not very far into it because, as I said, he's not a reader.
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Unread postby gilly » Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:46 pm

I guess I don't see so much of a comparison between TGM and OTR,as between TGM and Dylan Thomas's plays and James Joyce.Donleavy's writing style is almost like poetry,almost meant to be read out loud..It is more rich and lyrical than OTR..Don't get me wrong,I love OTR too,but I find it a very different book..There is a real friendship/bonding there between the male characters..more so than in TGM and Sebastian is a much more disagreeable character..Interesting comments about the treatment of women,DITHOT in both books..I hadn't thought of that.. :cool:
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Unread postby Endora » Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:49 am

I didn't know about HST liking TGM so much. I love this synchronicity!

Liz, put Catcher on your summer reading list. It's timeless. In fact I love it so that when we went to NY earlier this year, I went to the Natural History museum and went to the rooms he describes (The Indians of the NW) just to absorb the feel of the book. It was quite spooky.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:52 am

Endora wrote:I didn't know about HST liking TGM so much. I love this synchronicity!

Liz, put Catcher on your summer reading list. It's timeless. In fact I love it so that when we went to NY earlier this year, I went to the Natural History museum and went to the rooms he describes (The Indians of the NW) just to absorb the feel of the book. It was quite spooky.


If I only had time. :-/ I'm in 2 book clubs and I'm a slow reader.
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Unread postby Endora » Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:55 am

Liz wrote:
Endora wrote:I didn't know about HST liking TGM so much. I love this synchronicity!

Liz, put Catcher on your summer reading list. It's timeless. In fact I love it so that when we went to NY earlier this year, I went to the Natural History museum and went to the rooms he describes (The Indians of the NW) just to absorb the feel of the book. It was quite spooky.


If I only had time. :-/ I'm in 2 book clubs and I'm a slow reader.


You can do it! It's only a short read, a couple of evenings!
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Unread postby suec » Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:35 am

As I was reading TGM, I was reminded much more of Fear and Loathing than OTR, quite strongly so. I didn't make a note of those moments and so they mostly lost now. However, there is an interesting reference to fear on p146: 'And the fear. It's coming up from my toes and makes me feel empty and sick. I feel I'm standing before a blackness.' I can see another echo, with the fear SD feels of the landlord, and RD's when he is attempting to escape from the hotel. I think of the casual wildly excessive mistreatment of property, as well, and perhaps a structural similarity, with O'Keefe leaving, returning, and leaving again. Also, the excess of substances, only alcohol with SD. Mainly, though, it has echoes of FaLiVL in its heart - or perhaps I should say, the other way around. TGM is funny, much funnier than OTR, and much bleaker too, and it has that in common with FaLiLV. I look at the epigraph used in FaLiLV and could make a case for it being applicable to TGM: "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man". I think that lies underneath a lot of TGM. It is probably what the kangaroo episode is about, really. In addition, I think db's comparison of Ginny with the wave speech was excellent.

It is harder for me to compare TGM with OTR, because it is a couple of years since I read it. There do seem to be some similarities between Dean and SD. Dean is a conman and a womaniser and pretty darned selfish too, as I recall. I agree with the comments about treatment of women. For me, the women in TGM are much more clearly defined and independent as characters. However, that may be due to the length of time since I read OTR. But for me the very worst treatment of women is in FaliLV, with what happens to Lucy. I noticed this on p71 of TGM which rang a few bells. 'I was in despair. Wretched. Beat. A walk up Grafton Street sometimes kills it. But everyone looked beat like me'. OTR has a different heart in it. OTR was about freedom, whereas TGM is about being in a trap for most of it. The OTR characters took off on a whim. SD does so when he has no choice (from his perspective). But I think that the sense of alienation is a link. Sexual emancipation is also a common theme. FaLiLV and TGM are both satirical. I don't remember that so much with OTR, although I do remember the questioning of values. Maybe I need to read it again.

Other books? I was reminded of Secret Window, Secret Garden in one way. Both deal with perceptions of reality through one character's mind, which doesn't always match how others view it. Of course, that is pretty much the case for all of us :eyebrow: But with TGM, it is the other characters' comments from time to time that make me see that essential difference.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:27 am

Excellent analysis, suec, as always! :cool: Your details of the parallels with F&LILV are right on!
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:32 am

Suec, I had never really thought of the comparison to F&L before--except for maybe the excess use of substances. But I agree with you all the way. Plus F&L, like GM was a story that never really ended. Also RD was searching for the American dream, as was SD, I think. And both were disillusioned and frustrated with the search.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:35 am

Endora wrote:
Liz wrote:
Endora wrote:I didn't know about HST liking TGM so much. I love this synchronicity!

Liz, put Catcher on your summer reading list. It's timeless. In fact I love it so that when we went to NY earlier this year, I went to the Natural History museum and went to the rooms he describes (The Indians of the NW) just to absorb the feel of the book. It was quite spooky.


If I only had time. :-/ I'm in 2 book clubs and I'm a slow reader.


You can do it! It's only a short read, a couple of evenings!


I think I'm getting the message that I should read this book. :lol: You certainly have me intrigued. That is for sure. Maybe I'll give it a go in the summer.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby dharma_bum » Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:27 pm

Suec and I are on the same wavelength. I strongly related GM to FALILV. They are both novels about disillusionment and a quest to recreate a reality tied to a very specific place, time and confluence of external forces—the long fine flash in which the energy of a whole generation came to a head.

For HST, it was the freedom and idealism of the sixties and for Sebastian it was the pre-WWII world of guilt-free indulgence. In both novels, war changed everything. Each protagonist searches for their personal vision of the American Dream in a foreign landscape, and spends much of their time thwarted and running away… from people, places, and enlightenment. HST, however, does have epiphanies throughout his journey and more or less come to terms with outlaw life. What I found most disappointing about GM, wasn’t that SD didn’t change, but that he had so few moments of true self-awareness.
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