Never Be Too Wise to Cry

Photography by
Boo George

These photographs were taken at Levington Park in County Westmeath on Friday 6 March 2015. Boo George returned to Ireland to meet the Irish American writer, J. P. Donleavy, at his imposing country estate. Donleavy was born in New York City in 1926 and moved to Ireland in 1946. His acclaimed novel ‘The Ginger Man’ has sold more than 45 million copies.

Studio Invisible

Special thanks:
J. P. Donleavy, the J. P. Donleavy Estate, Little, Brown and Abacus

All written extracts are from J. P. Donleavy’s ‘The Ginger Man’, published by Abacus, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.

‘Have you seen a lot of women?’

‘Wouldn’t say a lot.’

‘And what were they like?’


‘I live here.’

They stood in front of a red brick house.

‘When can I see you again, Mary?’

‘I don’t know. Talk quiet and we can go in the hall.

We live upstairs.’

‘You’re a nice girl, Mary.’

‘You tell them all that.’

‘Let me kiss your hand.’

‘All right, if you want.’

‘Lovely green eyes, and black hair.’

‘You think I’m too fat?’

‘Not at all. Are you mad, Mary?’

‘Well, I’m going on a diet.’

‘Let me feel you. O not at all, just makes you ripe.

This, just the way you want them.’

When you don’t have any money, the problem is food. When you have money, it’s sex. When you have both it’s health, you worry about getting rupture or something. If everything is simply jake then you’re frightened of death.

Ginny Cupper took me in her car out to the spread fields of Indiana. Parking near the edge of woods and walking out into the sunny rows of corn, waving seeds to a yellow horizon. She wore a white blouse and a gray patch of sweat under her arms and the shadow of her nipples was gray. We were rich. So rich we could never die. Ginny laughed and laughed, white saliva on her teeth lighting up the deep red of her mouth, fed the finest food in the world. Ginny was afraid of nothing. She was young and old. Her brown arms and legs swinging in wild optimism, beautiful in all their parts. She danced on the long hood of her crimson Cadillac, and watching her, I thought that God must be female. She leaped into my arms and knocked me to the ground and screamed into my mouth.

Marion ran from the room, she tripped up the narrow stairs. He heard her slamming the bedroom door and the creak of the bed springs as she fell. Silence and then her choked sobs. He reached for the salt, shook it over the plate. Nothing came out. He raised his arm. The salt cellar crashed through the window and smashed to little pieces on the gray concrete wall outside. He kicked his chair over, picked up his jacket. He went behind the clock where he knew Marion had been saving change for weeks. He took it all and let it slip, clinking, into his pocket.

A very red face. Guilt. Grinding the teeth. Soul trying to get out of the mouth, swallowing it back into the body. Shut out the sobs.

Dreaming out this sunset. Tacked up on a cross and looking down. A cradle of passive, mystifying sorrow. Flooded in tears. Never be too wise to cry. Or not take these things. Take them. Keep them safely. Out of them comes love.