The Ginger Man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
First edition

The Ginger Man is a 1955 novel by J. P. Donleavy.

First published in Paris, the novel is set in Dublin, Ireland, in post-war 1947. Upon its publication, it was banned in Ireland and the United States of America for obscenity.

Plot introduction[edit]

It follows the often racy misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American living in Dublin with his English wife and infant daughter and studying law at Trinity College.

This book may be considered part of the fictionalised roar of the end of the Second World War hiatus, also represented by the colossi of American literature: John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. Dangerfield is an American Protestant of Irish descent, commonly believed to be a thinly fictionalised version of the author, but is more broadly based not only on Donleavy but also some of his contemporaries at Trinity. The hero, Dangerfield, is a portrayal of lifelong bohemian and friend of Donleavy, Gainor Stephen Crist, as told by the author in The History of The Ginger Man.

The book gives us the map of the terra incognita of late 1940s sexual encounters in Dublin. Donleavy's later books spell out the aftermath (particularly A Fairy Tale of New York, which later inspired Shane MacGowan's song "Fairytale of New York", recorded by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl).


The Ginger Man was named one of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century by the Modern Library in 1998.[1] It has sold 45 million copies world-wide and never been out of print.[2]


Donleavy wrote a stage adaptation of The Ginger Man which opened in London in September 1959, with Richard Harris playing Dangerfield. In October, the play opened in Dublin, also starring Harris, and was closed after three performances, due to the play's offensiveness according to the Dublin critics, and following protests from the Catholic Church.[3] All this is recorded by Donleavy in the 1961 Random House publication of the play with an essay by Donleavy,  :"What They Did in Dublin with The Ginger Man (a play)".

The BBC produced a 90-minute made-for-television version of the play, directed by Peter Dews, and aired on 23 March 1962 in the United Kingdom. Ann Bell played "Marion Dangerfield", Ronald Fraser as "Kenneth O'Keefe", Ian Hendry as "Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield", and Margaret Tyzack was "Miss Frost".[4]

Donleavy asked director George Roy Hill to film the novel (the two of them, along with Gainor Crist, had been at Trinity together), but Hill felt that he would lose perspective because the project would be too close to his heart and his time as a young man at Trinity.[5]

In 2005 there was reportedly discussion with actor Johnny Depp about starring in a film based on the novel.[6] Rumors of getting the project started surfaced every year or two since 1998, including Depp traveling to Dublin to work on a script with Donleavy, and Depp enlisted Shane Macgowan for a part, but it never seemed to get going. In 2006 it appeared things were taking shape, with Depp selecting a director, Laurence Dunmore (The Libertine).[7][8] Apparently, interest waned with the success of Pirates of the Caribbean.[9] Depp returned to Ireland to meet with Donleavy again in the summer of 2008.[10] As recently as June 2009, Donleavy was still hopeful that Depp would start the project in earnest.[11]

The book also inspired a song of the same name, recorded by Geoff Muldaur, Fritz Richmond, and John Sebastian on the 1964 Elektra The Blues Project (EKL-264). (However, the liner notes for this album indicate that the song was a tribute to Richmond.)


Donleavy, James Patrick:

  • 1955: The Ginger Man. - Olympia Press.
  • 1961: The Ginger Man: A Play. - Random House.
  • (alternate title; 1961: What They Did in Dublin, With The Ginger Man, A Play. - Macgibbon & Kee.)
  • 1994: The History of The Ginger Man. - Viking. - ISBN 978-0-670-84793-8.
  • 1964: 'Ginger Man' Geoff Muldaur, 'The Blues Project' Elektra Records EKS7264


  1. ^ "100 Best Novels". Modern Library. 
  2. ^ The Independent, 5 August 2010 A singular Life:J P Donleavy on his fascinating life since The Ginger Man
  3. ^ The Independent, 5 August 2010 [1]
  4. ^ The Ginger Man at the Internet Movie Database (1962)
  5. ^ Horton, Andrew (2005). The Films of George Roy Hill. McFarland. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0-7864-1931-9. 
  6. ^ Lacey, Colin (March 29, 1994). "ARTS: The Road From Smut to Classic: JP Donleavy Returns With a Ginger Man". Irish Voice. 
  7. ^ Brian Lavery (February 14, 2006). "'Ginger Man' lured back into limelight". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Johnny goes Ginger...". Total Film. January 18, 2006. 
  9. ^ Fischer, Martha (January 16, 2006). "Johnny Depp, Ginger Man?". Cinematical. 
  10. ^ Egan, Barry (May 11, 2008). "Johnny has Depp feeling for Donleavy classic tale". Irish Independent. 
  11. ^ Haynes, Kenneth (July 23, 2009). "JP Donleavy digs Johnny Depp as The Ginger Man".