Saturday, October 25, 2014

Librettist Da Ponte's 16-Year-Old Mistress and Muse for DON GIOVANNI

I wrote about Don Giovanni (1787) on The Allure of Nymphets blog because, Giovanni is an ephebophile. A lot is known about Mozart, the opera's composer, but outside of opera snobs, Lorenzo Da Ponte, the opera's librettist, may not be as well known . 

Writers may benefit from what was culled from Memoirs Lorenzo Da Ponte concerning Da Ponte's writing process:

  • Like Nabokov, who worked on Eugene Onegin for over 12 hours per day, Da Ponte wrote "for over twelve hours continuous".
  • Balzac often wrote for over 12 hours per day as well, while drinking fifty cups of Turkish coffee; however, Da Ponte preferred "a bottle of Tokay to my right," but he drank coffee as well. 
  • According to Currey's Daily Rituals How Artists Work, Thomas Mann "smoked while writing, but limited himself to twelve cigarettes and two cigars daily"; however, Da Ponte preferred Seville snuff. 
  • And like the writers I referred to in The Allure of Nymphets, 38-year-old Da Ponte was an ephebophile and used his 16-year-old mistress as a source of inspiration while writing Don Giovanni, which shouldn't be surprising when one considers that Giovanni had an "... outstanding passion is the youthful beginner....provided she wears a skirt." 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Writers Rise Above Social Classes

The protagonist in Edmund Wilson's "The Princess with the Golden Hair" which can be found in his Memoirs of Hecate County said, "[Artists] didn't worry about their social position because the life that an artist leads is outside all the social positions. The artist makes his own position, which is about the nearest thing you can get to being above the classes."

Darnton shared in his The Literary Underground of the Old Regime, which I thankfully found in among the $1 book stales at Strand, that "Duclos had proclaimed it triumphantly in his Considerations sur les fession (1750). [In the 18th century] [w]riting had become a new "profession," which conferred a distinguished "estate" upon men of great talent but modest birth..."

"The provincials flocked to Paris in search of glory, money, and the improved estate promised to any writer with sufficient talent...The avenues of advancement having been closed to them because of their humble birth and modest fortunes, they observed that the career of letters, open to everyone, offered another outlet for their ambition."

However, there's nothing wrong with getting a little money out of the deal to finance future artistic endeavors and to stock up on espresso. Like Nabokov wrote, "I write for my pleasure, but publish for money."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Writing vs. Sleeping

I quoted former prestigious Stuyvesant high school principal Teitel who used to tell his incoming New York City freshmen, "Grades [i.e. any creative project.], friends, and sleep—choose two."

After reading Gardner's Creating Minds and Mason Currey's Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, I learned that a number of overachieving artists like Picasso slept very little compared to the average person. 

Not only did the Paris Review reveal that Nabokov worked on the translation and commentary of Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse for over 17 hours per day, I recently read in Boyd's Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years that Nabokov slept approximately four hours per day. 

Lastly, according to a New York magazine profile, James Franco gets very little sleep and Franco fittingly wrote the poem "Nocturnal" in his volume of poetry, Directing Herbert White, about his battle with slumber, which I'm confident that a lot of other overachieving writers could relate to. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Balzac's Lost Illusions contains some advice for writers. I was referred to Balzac's classic by Nassim Taleb who used Lost Illusions to explain the concept of "silent evidence" in The Black Swan.

Here are a few of the prescriptions for writers: of genius had neither brother or sister, father nor mother; the great works that it is their task to create impose upon them what seems like egoism, oblige them to sacrifice everything to their own greatness. If at first the family must suffer from the exalting absorption of a great brain, later it will reap a hundred fold reward for the many and various sacrifices demanded by the first struggles of shacked nobility and share in the fruits of victory...Bernard Palissy, of Louis XI, Fox, Napoleon, Christopher Columbus, Cesar, all those illustrious gamblers who started life crippled with debts, or as poor men, not understood, regarded as mad, bad sons, bad fathers, bad brothers, but who later became the pride of their family, of the country, of the world. (59-60)

He wants the harvest without the toil...

...time is the capital of those whose intelligence is their only fortune...
Now literary success can only be won in solitude, by persevering labour. 
...a taste for luxury, a contempt for our quiet way of life; a love of pleasure and his natural tendency to idleness-the bane of poetic souls. 

Take refuge in some attic and write masterpieces, make yourself powerful in any way you will, and you will soon see the world at your feet...

If the present is cold and bare and poverty-stricken, the blue distant future is rich and splendid; most great men have known the vicissitudes which depress but cannot overwhelm me. Plautus, the great comic Latin poet, was once a miller's lad. Machiavelli wrote The Prince at night, and by day was a common working-man like any one else; and more than all, the great Cervantes, who lost an arm at the battle of Lepanto, and helped to win that famous day, was called a 'base-born, handless dotard' by the scribblers of his day; there was an interval of ten years between the appearance of the first part and the second of his sublime Don Quixote for lack of a publisher. 

He spent his mornings in studying history at the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve. His very first researches made him aware of frightful errors in the memoirs of The Archer of Charles IX. When the library closed, he went back to his damp, chilly room to correct his work, cutting out whole chapters and piecing it together anew. And after dining at Flicoteaux's, he went down to the Passage du Commerce to see the newspapers at Blosse's reading-room, as well as new books and magazines and poetry, so as to keep himself informed of the movements of the day. And when, towards midnight, he returned to his wretched lodgings, he had used neither fuel nor candle-light. His reading in those days made such an enormous change in his ideas, that he revised the volume of flower-sonnets, his beloved Marguerites, working them over to such purpose, that scarce a hundred lines of the original verses were allowed to stand. 

After all, a novel in a drawer is not like a horse in a stable-it does not eat bread. But it won't provide you with any either, and that's a fact. 

"Your story is mine, monsieur, and the story of ten or twelve hundred young fellows besides who come from the country to Paris every year. There are others even worse off than we are. Do you see that theatre?" he continued, indicating the turrets of the Odeon. "There came one day to lodge in one of the houses in the square a man of talent who had fallen into the lowest depths of poverty. He was married, in addition to the misfortunes which we share with him, to a wife whom he loved; and the poorer or the richer, as you will, by two children. He was burdened with debt, but he put his faith in his pen. He took a comedy in five acts to the Odeon; the comedy was accepted, the management arranged to bring it out, the actors learned their parts, the stage manager urged on the rehearsals. Five several bits of luck, five dramas to be performed in real life, and far harder tasks than the writing of a five-act play. The poor author lodged in a garret; you can see the place from here. He drained his last resources to live until the first representation; his wife pawned her clothes, they all lived on dry bread. On the day of the final rehearsal, the household owed fifty francs in the Quarter to the baker, the milkwoman, and the porter. The author had only the strictly necessary clothes—a coat, a shirt, trousers, a waistcoat, and a pair of boots. He felt sure of his success; he kissed his wife. The end of their troubles was at hand. 'At last! There is nothing against us now,' cried he.—'Yes, there is fire,' said his wife; 'look, the Odeon is on fire!'—The Odeon was on fire, monsieur. So do not you complain. You have clothes, you have neither wife nor child, you have a hundred and twenty francs for emergencies in your pocket, and you owe no one a penny.—Well, the piece went through a hundred and fifty representations at the Theatre Louvois. The King allowed the author a pension. 'Genius is patience,' as Buffon said. And patience after all is a man's nearest approach to Nature's processes of creation. What is Art, monsieur, but Nature concentrated?"

"There is no cheap route to greatness," Daniel went on in his kind voice. "The works of Genius are watered with tears. The gift that is in you, like an existence in the physical world, passes through childhood and its maladies. Nature sweeps away sickly or deformed creatures, and Society rejects an imperfectly developed talent. Any man who means to rise above the rest must make ready for a struggle and be undaunted by difficulties. A great writer is a martyr who does not die; that is all.—There is the stamp of genius on your forehead," d'Arthez continued, enveloping Lucien by a glance; "but unless you have within you the will of genius, unless you are gifted with angelic patience, unless, no matter how far the freaks of Fate have set you from your destined goal, you can find the way to your Infinite as the turtles in the Indies find their way to the ocean, you had better give up at once."

The rare talent, already matured by thought and by a critical habit of mind, a talent developed in solitude, not for publication, but for himself alone and for no other, had suddenly opened for the poet from the provinces a door into the most magnificent palaces of imagination. 

Read Goethe's Tasso, the great master's greatest work, and you will see how the poet-hero loved gorgeous stuffs and banquets and triumph and applause. Very well, be Tasso without his folly. Perhaps the world and its pleasures tempt you? Stay with us. Carry all the cravings of vanity into the world of imagination. Transpose folly. Keep virtue for daily wear, and let imagination run riot, instead of doing, as d'Arthez says, thinking high thoughts and living beneath them." (230)

There are a number of other prescriptions for writers in Lost Illusions. If you're a frustrated artist, I recommend the book as an admonishing to keep writing. I propose Kathleen Raine's translation. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Seth Roberts d. April 26, 2014

I learned today that Seth Roberts, who was a Professor of Psychology at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, a bestselling author, and who could be found in the acknowledgments of books by Nassim Taleb and Tim Ferris, passed away. 

Seth and I met about eight years ago via my blog Behind the Approval Matrix and soon after that he flew to New York to give a talk to my students. Most recently I spoke about Seth during a talk to a group of Brooklyn College students. That portion of the talk was on the importance of not wasting time/how to read more than one book per week. I related a story about when Seth and I went to the Burger Joint in the Le Parker Meridien hotel and how when I was in line ordering the burgers, Seth, after quickly perusing the hip burger joint with his eyes, pulled out a tattered novel and began reading.

During the past year Seth and I spoke almost every Saturday via Skype, because we were co-writing a book on education. He'll be missed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I wrote briefly about J.D. Salinger in the first volume of The Allure of Nymphets, and I did a post about him on the The Allure of Nymphets blog, but I watched Salinger (2013), because I hoped that I would uncover some additional material on the reclusive author for volume two of The Allure of Nymphets.

And I did get some more details about the famous ephebophile. For example, I learned that when Salinger was 30, he told 14-year-old Jean Miller, "I'd like to kiss you goodbye, but you know I can't." And he told Miller's mother, "I'm going to marry your daughter." Salinger and Miller reunited in Manhattan after Miller turned 18. Their relationship was platonic until Miller took the initiative to make it sexual. 

The other things I learned about Salinger's ephebophilia I'll save for the book, but I didn't realize that three shootings were associated with the novel e.g., Robert John Bardo's shooting of Rebecca Schaeffer , John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, and Mark David Chapman's shooting of John Lennon. 

To uncover some more clues about Salinger's ephebophilia and to find out why the novel was associated with not one, but three shootings, I decided to re-read The Catcher in the Rye (I'm assuming that I read it in high school, but I have absolutely no recollection of what I read in high school.)

I feel a bit like Nabokov, who was not impressed by Dostoevsky, when I write that I wasn't impressed by The Catcher in the Rye. I'm shocked that the novel has sold over 65 million copies and is listed as one of the best books of the previous century. I found the novel to be very bland and not suspenseful; however, I do have two clues as to why it's so popular and why it was associated with two murders. 

1. From 1961 to 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was widely censored in high schools and libraries. One of the best forms of publicity for a book is to ban it. If it weren't for the banning of Henry Miller's entertaining  Tropic of Capricorn, the novel would probably be obscure. 

2. Robert Greene implied in Mastery that the level of effort, emotion, and intensity that a writer puts into his or her writing will be projected to the reader. Therefore, one can project his mindset even when not in the presence of others through his creations (e.g. poetry, art, etc.). Salinger worked on The Catcher in the Rye during his emotionally grueling World War II tour of duty. The fear and emotion that he experienced on the front lines may have been transferred to his writing and consequently to his readers.

Additionally, I was surprised by the number of grammatical errors in The Catcher in the Rye. Admittedly, no man-made book is free of mistakes. And after my books are praised, the comments are often followed by, "But I did notice some mistakes." Nonetheless, I was surprised that a book of this caliber would have so many mistakes.

Here are some mistakes(?) that I recognized in the novel followed by my corrections:

p. 138
First she told me about some Harvard guy - it probably was a freshman, but she didn't say, naturally - that was rushing hell out of her. 

First she told me about some Harvard guy - [he] probably was a freshman, but she didn't say, naturally - that was rushing [the] hell out of her. 

p. 152
D.B. took Phoebe and I to see it last year.

D.B. took Phoebe and [me] to see it last year.

p. 229
I quick jumped up and ran over and turned off the light over the desk.

I [quickly] jumped up and ran over and turned off the light over the desk.

(When I re-read the sentence, I completely ignored and didn't see the work "quick", which may explain why it eluded the editors and survived all this time. I read "I jumped up and ran over and turned off the light over the desk.")

p. 233
It scared hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it...

It scared [the] hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it...

p. 259

... and I didn't have any too much time.

... and I didn't have too much time.

The following aren't mistakes, but I don't recall ever reading a sentence with the words "you" and "in" written twice in a row. Theses sentences would probably be marked as incorrect in a MFA program.

p. 32. "I mean it isn't too nice, naturally, if somebody tells you you don't brush your teeth."
p. 210 "It was all about this play she was in in school."

I'm I missing something here, or is The Catcher in the Rye overrated? 

(By the way, you lovers of Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye, don't try to bash me by pointing out the mistakes in this post and my books. That's not the point.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Was Nabokov a Hebephile\Ephebophile?

Readers of this blog are most likely familiar with Nabokov's Lolita, but they may not be familiar with his four other books that share a similar theme of hebephilia\ephebophilia with Lolita:

Laughter in the Dark 
The Original of Laura
Transparent Things
The Enchanter 

And some of Nabokov's published poetry contains the theme of hebephilia\ephebophilia. In “Lilith”, which can be found in his Selected Poems (2012), he wrote:
I died. The sycamores and shutters
along the dusty street were teased
by torrid Aeolus.

I walked,
and fauns walked, and in every faun
god Pan I seemed to recognize:
Good. I must be in Paradise.

Shielding her face and to the sparkling sun
showing a russet armpit, in a doorway
there stood a naked little girl.
She had a water-lily in her curls
and was as graceful as a woman. Tenderly
her nipples bloomed, and I recalled
the springtime of my life on earth,
when through the alders on the river brink
so very closely I could watch
the miller’s youngest daughter as she stepped
out of the water, and she was all golden,
with a wet fleece between her legs.

And now, still wearing the same dress coat
that I had on when killed last night,
with a rake’s predatory twinkle,
toward my Lilith I advanced.
She turned upon me a green eye
over her shoulder, and my clothes
were set on fire and in a trice
dispersed like ashes.

In the room behind
one glimpsed a shaggy Greek divan,
on a small table wine, pomegranates,
and some lewd frescoes covering the wall.
With two cold fingers childishly
she took me by my emberhead [пламя – i.e., erect penis]:
“now come along with me,” she said.

Without inducement, without effort,
Just with the slowest of pert glee,
like wings she gradually opened
her pretty knees in front of me.
And how enticing, and how merry,
her upturned face! And with a wild
lunge of my loins I penetrated
into an unforgotten child.
Snake within snake, vessel in vessel,
smooth-fitting part, I moved in her,
through the ascending itch forefeeling
unutterable pleasure [восторг – i.e., approaching orgasm] stir.
But suddenly she lightly flinched,
retreated, drew her legs together,
and grasped a veil and twisted it
around herself up to the hips,
and full of strength, at half the distance
to rapture [блаженству - i.e., orgasm], I was left with nothing.
I hurtled forward. A strange wind
caused me to stagger. “Let me in!”
I shouted, noticing with horror
that I stood again outside in the dust
and that obscenely bleating youngsters
were staring at my pommeled lust [булаву – mace i.e., erect penis].
“Let me come in!” And the goat-hoofed,
copper-curled crowd increased. “Oh, let me in,”
I pleaded, “otherwise I shall go mad!”
The door stayed silent, and for all to see
writhing in agony I spilled my seed
and knew abruptly that I was in Hell.
(The words in the brackets are from Maxim D. Shrayer's Russian Literature journal article "Nabokov's Sexography".)

Nabokov shared in Poems and Problems that “Lilith” was composed “to amuse a friend.” In Pniniad, Marc Szeftel, whom many claim was the model for Nabokov's Pnin, shared an anecdote that was related to him by Gleb Struve, an associate of Nabokov:

“Struve tells about a private evening devoted to Nabokov's erotical (or even pornographical) poetry, read by him. Of these poems only “Lilith” has been published in N.'s 'Poems and Problems'...This reading happened when N. was not yet married...What was on young Nabokov's mind before he married Vera, I do not know. Probably, quite a few frivolous things, to expect from a very handsome, young Russian.”

Maurice Couturier revealed in Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire that different versions of last six lines of  “Lilith” were used "...throughout Nabokov's novels which may suggest that he, as an author, was probably reenacting an event belonging to his own past or a fantasy he had nursed."

Brian Boyd shared in Vladimir Nabokov,The American Years that when Nabokov taught at Stanford his evenings were often spent attending formal parties and playing chess with Henry Lanz, the head of the Slavic department. Nabokov found Lanz "...delicate, cultured and talented." In addition, Nabokov found that Lanz was a nympholept (i.e., a person seized with a frenzy of erotic emotion) who would " off on the weekends, neat and dapper in his blazer, to orgiastic parties with nymphets." Now the question is, did Nabokov ever attend any of those parties with Lanz? 

And who was one of Nabokov's favorite painters? Based on my leading question, you may have been able to guess none other than Balthus. Nabokov shared in In Strong Opinions, "The aspects of Picasso that I emphatically dislike are the sloppy products of his old age. I also loathe old Matisse. A contemporary artist I do admire very much, though not only because he paints Lolita-like creatures, is Balthus." Furthermore, Eric Naiman wrote in Nabokov, Perversely that a painting in Pnin, "Hoecker's 'Girl with a Cat'", may have been a reference to Balthus' "Jeune Fille au Chat".

Balthus' "Jeune Fille au Chat"
Nabokov was asked in a 1964 Playboy interview, "Are there any contemporary authors you do enjoy reading?" Nabokov replied, "I do have a few favorites—for example, Robbe-Grillet and Borges. How freely and gratefully one breathes in their marvelous labyrinths! I love their lucidity of thought, the purity and poetry, the mirage in the mirror."

Unsurprisingly, Robbe-Grillet writes about nymphets too. Here's an exemplary excerpt from his Recollections of the Golden Triangle [French: Souvenirs du Triangle d'Or]:

To celebrate her 17th birthday, Caroline's father took a whole box at the Opera House. Caroline was commanded to face the stage while straddling two armless red-velvet chairs before her father "...pressed himself shamelessly against her buttocks in order to caress her in greater comfort...The insidious fingers are no longer satisfied with stroking...They pass back and forth in wave after wave, tirelessly, over the bivalvular lips...One tiny, fragile rock resists and stiffens..."

And what about Aleksandr Pushkin, who was one Nabokov's favorites poets. The Paris Review revealed that Nabokov spent two months in Cambridge working on the English translation and commentary of Eugene Onegin for over 17 hours per day. In the novel in verse, the poet Lensky invited 26-year-old dandy Eugene Onegin to dinner with his fiancée, the nymphet Olga, and her family. During the dinner Tatyana, Olga's 13-year-old older sister, became very infatuated with Onegin but her innocent love for the older man was (initially) unrequited. 

Wait. Let's not forget about Nabokov's short stories. According to Naiman, Nabokov wrote “Skazka” in 1926 before it was published in Rul', a Berlin emigre newspaper that was founded by his father. In the story, on his ride to work, Erwin habitually gazes through the tram's window and picks girls for his imaginary harem. However, the young man gains the opportunity for his dreams to come true after he meets Frau Monde, a female Devil who promises Erwin that he can have all the girls he wants upon “cushions and rugs” in “a villa with a walled garden” but that it's “essential and final” that he selects an odd number of girls between noon to midnight. 

The next day Erwin starts collecting slave girls. Here's a partial list:

A maiden in a white dress with chestnut hair and palish lips who was playing with her “fat shaggy pup”

“[T]wo young ladies-sisters, or even twins...Both were small and slim...with saucy eyes and painted lips.” Erwin referred to the Twins as “Gay, painted, young things.”

A lady who “...was lovely, hatless, bobhaired, with a fringe on her forehead that made her look like a boy actor in the part of a damsel.

A “beautiful in a drab, freckled way” wench who worked at a cheap restaurant that Erwin frequented on Sundays. 

A girl with gray eyes with a slight slant and a thin aquiline nose that wrinkled when she laughed

A girl at a small amusement park who wore a scarlet blouse with a bright-green skirt

Four girls in jerseys and shorts, “...magnificent legs, naked nearly up to the groin...” inside the amusement park's arcade. 

“A child of fourteen or so in a low-cut black party dress .” She was walking with a tall elderly man who was a “...famous poet, a senile swan, living all alone in a distant suburb”

I won't reveal who last girl was, but I will share her response to Erwin which was, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself...Leave me alone.” Her response was due to “...that which changes a man's life (i.e., genital) with one divine stroke...”

When Nabokov translated the story before it was published in Playboy (1974) and Details of a Sunset (1976), he aggressively titled it “A Nursery Tale” and noted in Tyrants Destroyed and Other Stories that when he was translating the story he was “...eerily startled to meet a somewhat decrepit but unmistakable Humbert escorting his nymphet in the story I wrote almost half a century ago.”

Thus, was Nabokov a hebephile\ephebophile? Clearly, he was and according to Matt Ridley's New York Time's Notable Book The Red Queen all men are. But did Nabokov ever have an age-discrepant relationship? We may never know.

(A number of Nabokov's other works are peppered lightly and liberally with references to nymphets. I would refer the reader to Naiman's Nabokov, Perversely and Couturier's Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire.)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Writer is a Prince!

I was originally drawn to the March 2014 issue of Vanity Fair due to the subtitle of the article The Prince of Patchin Place:
"... the Harris Tweed-clad modernist [E.E. Cummings], a longtime friend and mentor to her novelist father, rocked her teenage world." 
I thought that I could have used the article as a source for The Allure of Nymphets blog and for the second  volume of the book; however, this quote for E.E. Cummings stood out as well, “A writer is a prince!” 

Cummings felt that way despite:
"... he sometimes didn’t make enough money to pay the rent on the ramshackle apartment in Greenwich Village."
"... his last book of poetry had been rejected by every estimable publisher, 
his wife was six months pregnant by her dentist and 
his Aunt Jane had purloined his income ..."
However, Cummings had the "... ability to live elegantly on almost no money." And maybe most importantly, through it all, he maintained a very high level of self-esteem, which according to Cabane in The Charisma Myth would explain his charismatic appeal to the 15-year-old Masters High School sophomore.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Would You Write Sleaze to Fund Your Mainstream Writing? [WARNING: GRAPHIC]

I did a post on The Allure of Nymphets blog about Robert Silverberg's [pseud. Don Elliott] Orgy Maid. On page five of the book it states:

In the hill country of Tennessee, where Lonnie Garth was born, they have a quaint little folk saying about virginity. “A virgin,” they say, “is a five-year-old girl who can outrun her daddy and her brothers.”

Lonnie was a fast runner. That’s how come her virginity lasted all the way to the age of twelve. And, at twelve, she was about the oldest virgin in town.

And on page 31 Lonnie was told, "You been getting loved since you were six, I bet. Your brothers and your old man got there first."

It may not be surprising from the above excerpts that Orgy Maid is in the vintage sleaze genre, but it may be surprising to learn that Robert Silverberg is a Brooklyn born Ivy League graduate (B.A. in English Literature from Columbia) and multiple winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards.

In defense of Silverberg, Orgy Maid, with its teen anal sex and lipstick lesbianism, is no more graphic than some of the other mainstream books that I've reviewed that are considered to be YA literature. For example, in the Lauren Myracle's TTYL, 15-year-old Margaret, "...ejaculates...she squirts when she comes." 

The question becomes, who determines which books are considered sleaze or literature? And would you write sleaze to fund your more mainstream writing endeavors.

Friday, January 3, 2014

THE GINGER MAN: Solicitous Content vs Writing Mechanics

Here's Amazon description of J.P.Donleavy's The Ginger Man - 

First published in Paris in 1955, and originally banned in the United States, J. P. Donleavy’s first novel is now recognized the world over as a masterpiece and a modern classic of the highest order. Set in Ireland just after World War II, The Ginger Man is J. P. Donleavy’s wildly funny, picaresque classic novel of the misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American ne’er-do-well studying at Trinity College in Dublin. He barely has time for his studies and avoids bill collectors, makes love to almost anything in a skirt, and tries to survive without having to descend into the bottomless pit of steady work. Dangerfield’s appetite for women, liquor, and general roguishness is insatiable—and he satisfies it with endless charm.

Despite the fact that the novel was named one of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century by the Modern Library in 1998, has sold over 40 million copies, and that Johnny Depp has been trying to adapt the novel into a film, I can understand why a number of reviewers on Amazon weren't able to finish the novel. 

J.P. Donleavy changes narrative mode mid-paragraph from first-person to third-person - from one sentence to the next. There are conversations without quotation marks in the middle of paragraphs. And if you aren't focused a joke or sexual innuendo will pass you like a bicycle messenger in mid-town Manhattan.

The Nation hailed The Ginger Man "A comic masterpiece." However, if this book were written in your typical creative writing workshop or mailed to an editor or agent, it probably would be marked repeatedly with a red pen for errors and rejected. 

Due to the unconventional writing style, sexual content (e.g., anal sex), and the protagonist's adventures in a foreign land, the book reminded me of Henry Miller's writing style and of Tropic of Cancer, which argues the point that books like Tropic of CancerThe Ginger Man and even 50 Shades of Grey wouldn't be as popular as they are if it weren't for the controversial content. Thus, for the common reader, a compelling story can often be more important than "proper" writing mechanics.