was a man
Who made a boat
To sail away
And it sank."
- J.P. Donleavy from The Ginger Man
JPD's The Ginger Man remains the work for which the author is most famous. Donleavy's autobiographical works, JP Donleavy's Ireland, A Singular Country, and especially The History of The Ginger Man go into detail about the trying years of completing the manuscript, the scores of rejections by publishers and its final first publication by Olympia Press, Paris, which set into play yet more years of grief and litigation. Additional background is often discussed in Donleavy interviews.
First titled "Sebastian Dangerfield," the book was retitled "The Ginger Man" by Donleavy with some pressure by Olympia Press for a more provocative title. There are scores of guesses and is much speculation about the title, would-be meanings ranging from slang for male genitalia to the most commonly believed theory: a connection to the childhood tale of The Gingerbread Man, whose song, "Run, run, as fast as you can; you can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man" does seem to fit Dangerfield's M.O.
Some (fancy credentials don't exclude people from being eejits at times) in the literary world consider Donleavy's later works to be either weaker re-workings of The Ginger Man or not up to the debut novel's standards. Readers with open minds, and most important, open hearts, know otherwise. However, The Ginger Man is, and will always be the work most associated with James Patrick Donleavy. It has become a modern classic, translated into dozens of languages and published in hundreds of editions. It has never been out of print in over a half century, and despite bans, years of litigation, piracies, and weak distribution by publishers in the last 20 years, the book thrives.
Since there are so many
editions, I have subdivided the bibliography index into sections chronologically.
To purchase books by J.P. Donleavy, go to the Buyers' Guide.
Ginger Man bibliography with publication details
and cover illustrations
The Ginger Man - Misc.
Book Reviews of The Ginger Man
Handwritten last page of The Ginger Man, signed by JPD (originally donated to a
charity auction in London)
Early Ginger Man Cover Concepts by Donleavy (Special thanks to Ronald Sauer for
providing the photo)
Ginger Man Published Play Adaptations
Performance History of Ginger Man Play Productions
Play Reviews of The Ginger Man
Ginger Man Audio Book (read by Donleavy and available in limited, signed edition only)
Adventures in Making The Ginger Man by Bill Dunn
Ginger Man Bars and other links
The Ginger Man - Achievements
- First runner up, National Book Award, 1959
- Best-seller & modern classic status (estimated 40-50 million copies sold in 25 languages; 165 editions/printings verified.)
- Never out of print since first publication in 1955. See bibliographies above.
- Adapted for the stage numerous times with many highly favorable reviews. World premiere launched career of Richard Harris
- The Ginger Man included in Modern Library's "Best 100 English-Language Novels of the Century" list.
- The Ginger Man #7 in the "top selling 100 books of all time in Ireland" list (despite being officially banned until the mid-1970s)
- Included in dozens of academic reference books and required reading lists.
- Included in scores of articles and interviews internationally
- Included (along with JPD's other works and bio) in the Princess Grace Irish Library, Monaco.
- Among the books selected for a "Display of Important First Editions," April 15 - September 10, 2003, Rare Book Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
- Sebastian Dangerfield canonized undergrads' patron saint at Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia
- Translated into many languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Bulgarian, Albanian, Czech, Romanian, Hungarian, Greek, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hebrew, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Chinese (don't know which dialect or if it's mainland or Taiwan), Estonian, Slovak and Braille. (multiple editions in French, German, Dutch, Italian, Finnish, Danish, Swedish).
- 48 years from its first publishing in Italy, back on the Italian bestseller list after a new edition being issued in 2006
- Along with such classics as Lady Chatterly's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Lolita and others, The Ginger Man helped lift overly strict censorship laws for literature in the US and Europe, giving modern authors the freedom of expression now too often taken for granted.