J.P. Donleavy - a Brief Sketch
James Patrick (aka, Mike) Donleavy (pronounced - "lee - vee") was born in New York
in 1926, both parents having immigrated from Ireland. After serving in the Navy in W.W.II,
Donleavy traveled to Dublin to study at Trinity College. A central figure in Dublin's postwar
creative Bohemia, Donleavy was first a painter and gave several local shows but was snubbed
trying to gain entry into the London gallery scene, being told he would have to be famous in
order to have his work shown. Donleavy vowed to get famous but decided to do so with
typewriter and paper rather than brush and canvas.
Donleavy's first novel, The Ginger Man, did indeed make him famous, but it took years
to complete and years more to get published, many would-be publishers praising its artistic
qualities but fearing legal and moral backlash for its (at the time) explicit sexual content.
Donleavy finally found a willing publisher in Paris - Maurice Girodias, whose Olympia
Press had published other "extreme" authors, such as Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett.
Unknown to Donleavy at the time, Girodias also published a series of pornographic fiction
called The Traveler's Companion Series. When the authorities began to crack down on
Girodias, he decided to gain needed "artistic merit" for his racy and profitable sideline
business by publishing The Ginger Man - already having gotten some favorable critical
notice before publication - as part of The Traveler's Companion Series and not in the format
of his other literary writers. To save his credibility as an author and save The Ginger Man
from death by association with utter porn, Donleavy tried to arrange for a UK edition to
be published, even agreeing to expurgate the work (the one and only time any Donleavy
work has been altered to avert censorship) in order to gain legitimacy. The years of legal
battles with Girodias over rights to The Ginger Man that ensued are chronicled in Donleavy's
autobiography The History of the Ginger Man.
Donleavy is an accomplished playwright, several of his stories being adapted for the stage
and being performed by major companies in the US and Europe (see JPD - Playwright
for more). He is also the scriptwriter, narrator and lead of the film/video J.P. Donleavy's
Ireland, available on cassette from the Discovery Channel (see JPD - Video for more).
Today, Donleavy continues his prolific writing career (see JPD - Bibliography for details)
and shows no signs of retiring. He still paints and has major shows from time to time (see
JPD - Artist for more). Now an Irish citizen, Donleavy lives in an historic mansion called
Levington Park, in County Westmeath, near Mullingar, about 50 miles from Dublin. Busy
with farming as well as acting as his own agent in addition to writing, Donleavy reads but
does not reply to fan mail.
- Most Promising Playwright Award - Evening Standard, 1960 for Fairy Tales of New York
- Brandeis Creative Arts Award, '61-62 for plays The Ginger Man & Fairy Tales of New York
- Citation from National Institute & American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1975
- American Academy of Arts and Letters grantee, 1975
- Worldfest Houston Gold Award, 1992 for the film "J.P. Donleavy's Ireland"
- Cine Golden Eagle Award, 1993 for writer & narrator of film "J.P. Donleavy's Ireland"
- Novel, The Ginger Man listed in Modern Library's Best 100 Novels of the Century
- Novel, The Ginger Man ranked #7 in Best-selling Books of All Time in Ireland
TAD OF TRIVIA:
J.P. Donleavy's birthday is April 23. Others with the same birthday include William
Shakespeare, Sergei Prokofiev, Vladimir Nabakov, Shirley Temple, Virgil "Gus"
Grissom, Sandra Dee, Warren Spahn, Roy Orbison, and James Buchanan.