Okay, okay, quiet down now, I got a joke for you. Stop me if you've heard this one: An Irish guy walks into a bar, right? Gets blind drunk, smashes up some things, goes home, and pawns his woman's stuff to get more money to buy booze. Wait, it gets better. She gets mad, he smacks her, and she leaves eventually. He pawns the rest of her stuff, gets drunk, and finds another woman who has sex with him and falls in love with him.
You don't think it was funny? Well you are wrong. I've just revealed the plot of The Ginger Man, one of the top 100 novels of all time. According to The New Yorker it was "A triumph of comic writing."
Wait, it gets better... after this new woman falls in love with him, this Irish guy walks into a bar. Gets blind drunk, smashes up some things, goes home, and pawns this new woman's stuff to get more money to buy booze. She gets mad, he smacks her, and she leaves eventually. He pawns the rest of her stuff, gets drunk, and finds another woman who has sex with him and falls in love with him.
You get the joke yet? Don't you like the protagonist? You should. After all, Time magazine says that he is "one of the most outrageous scoundrels in contemporary fiction" and that readers would come to love him for "his wild, fierce two-handed grasp for every precious second of life."
Dangerfield, the main character, is the worst kind of literary drunk. A boring one. That plot synopsis I just gave you is the entire story of The Ginger Man. That one theme, over and over. And over.
From The New Yorker: "No contemporary writer is better than Donleavy at his best." I beg to differ.
DOUG'S PARITAL LIST OF CONTEMPORARY WRITERS BETTER THAN DONLEAVY AT HIS BEST
1) Douglas Adams
2) Robert Sheckley
3) Chuck Palahniuk
5) Pat Sajak
6) Your 8 year old daughter
7) My cat, Anakin
8) Bob Saget
It is actually quite easy to make a list of such writers. Just find any writer who avoids writing novels about men who get drunk, beat up women, whine, steal, and do it over and over again until you are just bored silly.
What made the book worse was that, half way through, I read the back cover. Lots of glowing reviews there. Here is one I agreed with: "It is one of the books which reveal their quality from the first line." V.S. Naipaul. (The first line of The Ginger Man: "Today a rare sun of Spring." What a triumph of comic writing)
I have no problem with alcoholics. I've been accused of romanticizing them. I've certainly had friends who were more interesting when they were drunk than when they were sober. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but it is true. But I have no love for assholes who just become worse assholes when they are drunk, and I have true hate for assholes who become dull and banal when they've had a few. And that is what Dangerfield is.
I don't feel I've conveyed to you how annoying this book is. Here's a final example. There are some very explicit sex scenes. I was walking to work, and was in the middle of as graphic a depiction of mutual oral sex as a reader could ask for. I reached my building, and put the book away mid-scene. I didn't pick it up again at lunch. I only started to read it again on my way home from work, with the same enthusiasm as I'd have for any other chapter. For an author to deaden me to the point where even naked ladies don't interest me is quite an accomplishment. I don't even think pirates could have saved this novel, frankly.
There was one moderately amusing chapter involving public transportation and an unfortunate penis, but I don't think that warrants the Nation calling it "A Comic Masterpiece."
HEY! REVIEWERS! THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES ON AND IS STILL DULL AS A BUTTERKNIFE!
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