Novelist and playwright J.P. Donleavy, "the expatriate American author whose 1955 novel The Ginger Man shook up the literary world with its combination of sexual frankness and outrageous humor," died September 11, the New York Times reported. He was 91. Although he had "considerable trouble finding a publisher for The Ginger Man," his friend Brendan Behan suggested he "send the manuscript to Olympia Press in Paris. This worked out well, in that Olympia accepted the book, and not well, in that it was published as part of the Traveler's Companion series, which was known for erotica," the Times noted.
"That was basically the end of my career," Donleavy has said. "I was 'a dirty book writer' out of Paris." Eventually, however, The Ginger Man won critical acclaim and a wide readership, selling more than 45 million copies worldwide and making Modern Library's list of the best 100 novels of the 20th century.
Donleavy wrote more than a dozen novels, as well as plays and nonfiction books, including The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B.; The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman; The Onion Eaters; The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival & Manners; A Singular Man; and A Fairy Tale of New York. His last published novels were The Lady Who Liked Clean Rest Rooms and Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton, though he "had also been working on a manuscript, The Dog That Fell From the 17th Floor, for several years," the Times wrote.
In "a toast" for the late author, Dwight Garner wrote: "In his spectral wit, Donleavy could resemble Samuel Beckett; in his delighted lustiness, Henry Miller; in his damp and scattered wordplay, James Joyce. An American who lived most of his life in Ireland, he spoke to this century’s intellectual and moral dislocations. Like a greased pig, he eluded critical capture."