Wrong Information is Being Given Out at Princeton: The Chronicle of One of the Strangest Stories Ever to Be Rumoured about Around New York

James Patrick Donleavy, Author Thomas Dunne Books $24.95 (323p) ISBN 978-0-312-19372-0
Judging by his previous novel, The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms, and this new one, Donleavy, most famous for The Ginger Man (it was banned in America in 1955), seems fixated on odd or disagreeable people whose bizarre behavior puts them on society's margins. Here, the antihero is Stephen O'Kelly'O, a Rudolph Valentino look-alike, son of Irish bootleggers, naval veteran and generally oversexed layabout. In post-WWII Manhattan, he meets the very rich Sylvia Triumphington and almost immediately elopes with her. ""I should have realized right there and then that I was getting involved with a deeply spoiled bitch,"" Stephen muses. That might be so, but Sylvia is at least poignantly rendered (she is preoccupied by the fact that she was adopted), and it is a shame that she is not the protagonist. Instead, we see the world through Stephen's eyes--a chore, since the self-styled ""composer with artistic sensibilities"" is impossible to like or take seriously. Stephen's social commentaries are so jejune they are funny; he uses Marxism as an excuse to avoid finding a job and insouciantly asks Sylvia's adoptive father to sponsor his musical career. But soon Stephen is having it off with Sylvia's adoptive mother, who has some kinky tastes of her own. Like Stephen's character, this novel is a muddle that's lewd without purpose and mean-spirited without irony. In fact, the book's promise ends at its amusing (and misleading) title. Illustrations by Elliott Banfield. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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