Monday, March 05, 2007

A Singular Man

JP Donleavy - that strange, Brooklyn-born tough-guy Irish country gent with the semi-aristocratic English accent - was the guest on Desert Island Discs this week.

In my early twenties I went through a period of Donleavy obsession, spending an inordinate amount of time trawling the second-hand bookshops of Bristol for paperbacks, and reading them on the bus to work.

The received wisdom on Donleavy is that he wrote one masterpiece, The Ginger Man, and then just kept re-writing it over and over again in ever-paler imitation.

This isn’t quite true: he wrote two masterpieces, The Ginger Man and A Singular Man, and kept re-writing these over and over again in (mostly) paler imitation.

The normal rules of lit crit don’t and shouldn’t apply to Donleavy. Rather, he is a one-man genre and you either like that genre or you don’t. His books are about unlucky, angry, melancholy, hyper-active, amoral men, grabbing whatever they can from an immoral world.

2 comments:

Peter Burnet said...

His books are about unlucky, angry, melancholy, hyper-active, amoral men, grabbing whatever they can from an immoral world.

Hold on. I haven't read him but what, generally speaking, is singular about that? Hasn't the greater part of modern fiction for quite some time been a choice between several hundred pages on the clever cynicism of Holden Caulfeld wannabes and even more pages on the inner voices of women taking far too long to figure the s.o.b's out?

Brit said...

He's faster, madder, funnier and crazier than anybody else. The books are gloriously pointless.