The Ginger Man Question #24 - What Clings to the Pages

by J.P. Donleavy

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The Ginger Man Question #24 - What Clings to the Pages

Unread postby Liz » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:16 am

From an article from Financial Times Ltd., 2005: “The book had become notorious because of its sexual high jinks but it is far more than a giggle-book for adolescents. This year’s Booker-winning writer John Banville says he greatly admired The Ginger Man when he first read it as a young man: “What struck me most forcibly about the book was not the humour or the sex, but the sense of sweet and delicate melancholy that clings to the pages. I thought it that rare thing in a novel, a genuine work of art.”

Would you agree or disagree with Mr. Banville’s opinion?
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:25 am

No, but not sure I could explain well enough why, other than personally I just didn't enjoy it as good book. Lets just say I'm sure I've read better books that could be called works of art or great writing or whatever.

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Unread postby lumineuse » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:30 am

:-? I saw nothing sweet or delicate about it - and not a lot of melancholy, unless you count self-pity.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:09 am

I wonder if this is the difference between the male and female perceptions of the book? There were certain sections that I found rather sweet and melancholy but as for the book overall, I would have to disagree.
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Unread postby Endora » Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:34 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I wonder if this is the difference between the male and female perceptions of the book? There were certain sections that I found rather sweet and melancholy but as for the book overall, I would have to disagree.


But remember in our scientific sample of one, (my husband), we were told that S was "a complete b*stard". Personally I think that there are few men or women who would really find S's behaviour, attitudes etc appealing. Surely he means the style of writing, the sometimes clever metaphors and analogies (I'll find an example later). And it's a good device to use sweet descriptions to pick out horrible events, a counterpoint that emphasises.

Rambling again after a very long couple of days at work, sorry.
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Unread postby Liz » Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:38 pm

Endora wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I wonder if this is the difference between the male and female perceptions of the book? There were certain sections that I found rather sweet and melancholy but as for the book overall, I would have to disagree.


But remember in our scientific sample of one, (my husband), we were told that S was "a complete b*stard". Personally I think that there are few men or women who would really find S's behaviour, attitudes etc appealing. Surely he means the style of writing, the sometimes clever metaphors and analogies (I'll find an example later). And it's a good device to use sweet descriptions to pick out horrible events, a counterpoint that emphasises.

Rambling again after a very long couple of days at work, sorry.


I agree, Endora, that there are beautiful descriptions to counterpoint SD. I do feel there is a bit of delicate melancholy, but not sweet--more like bittersweet. An example from pg. 27:

"Left my soul sitting on a wall and walked away, watching me and grew cold because souls are like hearts, sort of red and warm, all like a heart."
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Unread postby Bix » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:38 pm

I surprise myself with my answer, but I do agree with Banville's opinion. I'm not sure I would have agreed before we had this discussion, though, and I do think there is something to the idea of men and women perhaps viewing the book differently - or even to the idea that 50 years later we see it in a very different light. At any rate, once I got past being appalled at SD and gave more attention to the craft used to create him, I do think there is "sweet and delicate melancholy" clinging to many pages.

One example I liked is on p199, where SD and Miss Frost go out to a pub: "They stepped down the little front porch. Sebastian offering his arm. The soft million drops coming down. She held his arm lightly. And through the middle class streets and in these windows there were comforts. Dry chairs. Sebastian whistled a tune. On a back street, through vacant lots, lanes of the poor and whitewashed walls, folding roofs, slates shining everywhere up these black twisted streets. Chickens making noise." There is just so much in those few sentences to make us see and feel the scene, a sweetness to the whole thing and yet a use of words that evoke that melancholy feeling: middle class, comforts/dry chairs, lanes of the poor, black twisted streets.

I also liked the passage beginning on p 19, where Kenneth and Sebastian go into the drawing room at Balscaddoon, beginning with "They walked along the red tiled hall to the drawing room." Sebastian muses about his marriage to Marion and their honeymoon and ends with, "This Boston voice squeaking out its song. The yellow light goes out the window on the stubs of windy grass and black rocks. And down the wet steps by gorse stumps and rusty heather to the high water mark and diving pool. Where the seaweeds rise and fall at night in Balscaddoon Bay."

I wish I could find some better examples, but those were just the two I could find quickly.
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Unread postby PhD » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:48 pm

Well, my literary inability is killing me. My gut says I agree with Banville's statement, but no words come to my brain to explain why. I guess my gut and my brain don't communicate very well. Oh well.:sigh: Maybe hanging around here will increase my ability to express myself. :noodlemantra:
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Unread postby SamIam » Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:09 pm

I think that there were some good points to the book and some bad points mostly Sebastien's behavior but the book had its moments so I would agree partially with Banville's statement.
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Unread postby Liz » Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:48 pm

Bix wrote:I surprise myself with my answer, but I do agree with Banville's opinion. I'm not sure I would have agreed before we had this discussion, though, and I do think there is something to the idea of men and women perhaps viewing the book differently - or even to the idea that 50 years later we see it in a very different light. At any rate, once I got past being appalled at SD and gave more attention to the craft used to create him, I do think there is "sweet and delicate melancholy" clinging to many pages.

One example I liked is on p199, where SD and Miss Frost go out to a pub: "They stepped down the little front porch. Sebastian offering his arm. The soft million drops coming down. She held his arm lightly. And through the middle class streets and in these windows there were comforts. Dry chairs. Sebastian whistled a tune. On a back street, through vacant lots, lanes of the poor and whitewashed walls, folding roofs, slates shining everywhere up these black twisted streets. Chickens making noise." There is just so much in those few sentences to make us see and feel the scene, a sweetness to the whole thing and yet a use of words that evoke that melancholy feeling: middle class, comforts/dry chairs, lanes of the poor, black twisted streets.


I rather surprised myself with my answer, too, Bix. Now I remember reading this passage and thinking it was sweet and melancholy. I know there are other similar passages. These types of passages were this novel's saving grace for me. But, for some reason, I don't give SD credit for them, only Donleavy. :eyebrow:
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Unread postby nebraska » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:36 pm

The part of the book that I found sweet and maybe melancholy was the interlude with Miss Frost. The book as a whole.........sorry, I just had a hard time with it, didn't like the story, didn't like most of the characters, found some of it confusing..........And yet, like many of the books we have discussed here, I wish I had the time to go back and read the book a second time after hearing what others have said.......beautiful passages that I apparently overlooked, themes I missed, all sort of rich things I didn't get first time through. You all amaze me sometimes.

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Unread postby Liz » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:11 pm

nebraska wrote:The part of the book that I found sweet and maybe melancholy was the interlude with Miss Frost. The book as a whole.........beautiful passages that I apparently overlooked, themes I missed, all sort of rich things I didn't get first time through. You all amaze me sometimes.


Me too! :-O

Nebraska, I agree about the Miss Frost segment of the book. It was somewhat sweet--or maybe I should say it was told in a sweet fashion.
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Unread postby gilly » Thu Apr 27, 2006 2:47 am

I didn't see the melancholy..certainly there was some introspection and alot of self-pity as lumi says..I wouldn't call it sweet either..I think the only thing this bloke has right is that it's a work of Art..which I truely feel, mainly because of the writing style, the beautiful descriptions..This is what sold me on the book and why I have read it 3 times now :cool:
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Unread postby suec » Sun Apr 30, 2006 6:00 am

I agree with the statement. Here is one example:
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 30, 2006 12:00 pm

suec wrote:I agree with the statement. Here is one example:
'Matter, all of it, of time. Pumping it around and around and around, air in, air out and then it all goes like the shutters of a collapsing house. Starts and ends in antiseptic smell. Like to feel the end would be like closing leaves of honeysuckle, pressing out a last fragrance in the night but that only happens to holy men.' p55


I didnt remember that one, Suec. It is a beautiful passage.
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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