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J. P. Donleavy: A Singular Man

It has been said that George Smith, the hero of this novel, is Sebastian Dangerfield, of The Ginger Man, with money. Like Dangerfield and other Donleavy heroes, he is obsessed with death, to the point of building a massive mausoleum, which he is tempted to occupy at once, before his actual physical death. There is not much plot. Smith is wealthy and a recluse. We do not learn much about his business or source of wealth. He receives strange letters with vague threats but it is not clear what they mean. At the beginning he hires, as a secretary, Miss Sally Tomson, who definitely seems rather forward for a traditional secretary. Mr. Smith is a person to whom things happen rather than someone who cause things to happen and Miss Tomson, something of a whirlwind, is one of the things that happens to him. Sex is one of the things that doesn’t really happen to him, despite his best efforts. Indeed, his sex life is just one of the sorry episodes in his life that doesn’t really work. Smith tries to find something that will be an alternative to death and sex and love are his best hope but it will the mausoleum – his love of death – that will win.

Publishing history

First published 1963 by Little, Brown