The Ginger Man Question #23 ~ A book without hope?

by J.P. Donleavy

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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The Ginger Man Question #23 ~ A book without hope?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Apr 25, 2006 8:38 am

Norman Podhoretz , editor-at-larage for Commentary magazine, calls The Ginger Man “fundamentally a book without hope”. Do you agree or disagree? (Thanks to suec for supplying me with this quote! :cool: )
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Unread postby Bix » Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:15 pm

I disagree. After all, isn't Sebastian Dangerfield one of the most hopeful creatures on earth? Every day is a new day when he hopes he will charm another woman, cadge another meal or drink off a friend, come into some money, etc. :lol: Is there hope that SD will grow up and take responsibility for his own life? Probably not.

But I don't see this as a book about despair and lack of hope. It would have been just too painful to read if there were not a sense of the indomitable spirit of the characters and their way of stepping up boldly to meet another day no matter what went on the day before.
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Unread postby PhD » Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:21 pm

I'm going to agree with Bix on this one. I dont think GM is a book without hope... it's a book full of hope. Most all of the characters seemed to be survivors. You probably wouldn't be a survivor for long if you didn't have hope.

While the book itself has hope, maybe Podhoretz's comments stem from the readers' having no hope for S.
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Unread postby QueenofKings » Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:23 pm

I don't see The Gingerman as a book without hope either. Getting drunk and having a good time with your friends can be fun. It's the aftermath that is awful. But a lot of the book focused on S's sexual conquests, his interactions with his friends and his inventive scamming. He was constantly engaged in these pursuits and looking forward to them as a means to an end. Granted, almost nothing in his life was going the way he wanted it to, but he still kept on with his schemes. In my mind this means that he still had hope that things would turn out okay.

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Unread postby Liz » Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:32 pm

I agree with all of you. I didn't see it as a book without hope. It was actually a pretty light and somewhat humorous book. I think SD had hope, or just deluded himself into thinking that everything would be OK in the end. He tended to live day to day, trying to get the most fun out of each day as he could, which is a positive thing, yet a selfish thing. I think that this quote is more about hope for SD. There was no hope for him. He was never going to change.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Apr 25, 2006 1:02 pm

I was thinking along those lines too. I think there are aspects of hope in the book, especially the characters other than Sebastian. In Sebastian's case I don't hold out much hope for him ever changing :banghead: but maybe maturity and poverty eventually changed him.
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Unread postby SamIam » Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:24 pm

I think it was hopeful book as well. At least Sebastien was determined to keep going each day.
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Apr 25, 2006 5:14 pm

I think so too I think the other characters certainly have hope but not Sebastian. I assume we are to talk about the ending?

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Unread postby Liz » Tue Apr 25, 2006 6:53 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I think so too I think the other characters certainly have hope but not Sebastian. I assume we are to talk about the ending?


Not quite yet, GG. We'll talk about the ending in a couple of days.
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Unread postby stroch » Tue Apr 25, 2006 7:40 pm

If you look at the definition of hope as an expectation that will be fulfilled, maybe it is a book with out hope.

As readers, we are always aware of Sebastian's delusions, and his fundamental despair. I don't see him as arrogant or unaware, I see him as desperate. Just as many adolescents disparage society for its shallowness, SD has a negative attitude to conventional belief systems. But I think he longs to be part of that world. We talked about his innocualting himself against failure earlier.

There ARE people who never change. AA says you can't overcome alcoholism until you hit bottom, and many people think that it means you descend to the pits, and then climb back up. In fact, may people just roll along on the bottom, never, ever getting better.

In that sense, it is hopeless. SD will probably never change.

But, if 90% of success in life is just showing up, there is hope, because SD sure does show up every day, ready for more.
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Unread postby Liz » Tue Apr 25, 2006 11:01 pm

stroch wrote:If you look at the definition of hope as an expectation that will be fulfilled, maybe it is a book with out hope.

As readers, we are always aware of Sebastian's delusions, and his fundamental despair. I don't see him as arrogant or unaware, I see him as desperate. Just as many adolescents disparage society for its shallowness, SD has a negative attitude to conventional belief systems. But I think he longs to be part of that world. We talked about his innocualting himself against failure earlier.

There ARE people who never change. AA says you can't overcome alcoholism until you hit bottom, and many people think that it means you descend to the pits, and then climb back up. In fact, may people just roll along on the bottom, never, ever getting better.

In that sense, it is hopeless. SD will probably never change.

But, if 90% of success in life is just showing up, there is hope, because SD sure does show up every day, ready for more.


I think that the answer to this depends on how one defines hope in relation to the book. If we are looking for the hope that Sebastian has his epiphany, then that expectation or want (by us, the readers) has not been fulfilled. If we look at it from Sebastian's point of view, there still is hope, because I don't think he has a clue that he's off the track.
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Unread postby dharma_bum » Tue Apr 25, 2006 11:33 pm

I don’t think either GM or SD were without hope. SD had imagination, ingenuity and good bit of self-deprecating humor. I have to believe that there was a better Sebastian underneath the damage because we got glimpses of him all the time.

Stephen Jeffreys was right… Life isn’t a succession of urgent nows, movies and books only make it seem that way. It takes a very long and listless trickle of “Why should, Is” to change in tone from a defiant challenge to resignation to a soul searching question. I think that Donleavy wanted us as readers to feel what most of us felt (pissed off) and then think about how hard change really is. Any man who could walk the streets of Dublin wearing a woman’s yellow blouse with pride is not without a path to redemption.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:05 am

dharma_bum wrote: Any man who could walk the streets of Dublin wearing a woman’s yellow blouse with pride is not without a path to redemption.


:biglaugh: You have a point there, db!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Endora » Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:24 pm

dharma_bum wrote:I don’t think either GM or SD were without hope. SD had imagination, ingenuity and good bit of self-deprecating humor. I have to believe that there was a better Sebastian underneath the damage because we got glimpses of him all the time.


Although I admire your generousity, I find that I disagree with most of you, because I did find the whole book so bleak. I found it without hope because Seb, despite having the things mentioned by d_b, made so little of them. It seems a story of wasted gifts to me, in fact more hopeless than a story about a person with nothing. There seems little hope for those who cannot motivate themselves towards self help. We have said all along that S was a taker, this just seems like another illustration of how he expected others to provide for him.
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Unread postby Liz » Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:43 pm

Endora wrote:
dharma_bum wrote:I don’t think either GM or SD were without hope. SD had imagination, ingenuity and good bit of self-deprecating humor. I have to believe that there was a better Sebastian underneath the damage because we got glimpses of him all the time.


Although I admire your generousity, I find that I disagree with most of you, because I did find the whole book so bleak. I found it without hope because Seb, despite having the things mentioned by d_b, made so little of them. It seems a story of wasted gifts to me, in fact more hopeless than a story about a person with nothing. There seems little hope for those who cannot motivate themselves towards self help. We have said all along that S was a taker, this just seems like another illustration of how he expected others to provide for him.


This is true. :-/
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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