The Lady Who Liked Clean Rest Rooms Little, Brown, $220 The Ginger Man Abacus, $118 by J P Donleavy Forty-odd years after J P Donleavy first hit the bookstands with his tales of determined snobbery in the face of despair, he has returned with another one. Which is to say he has not progressed much in the interim, beyond a step or two into middle age. The grand master of the 'joyful romp' is back. But his new novella, The Lady Who Liked Clean Rest Rooms, is neither joyful nor a romp. Nor, sadly, does the language lift it frequently enough above the level of his often tawdry material. The old Donleavy was not only a 'raging, randy talent', as the reviewers said of his earlier books, he was also a master craftsman whose lyrical use and abuse of the English language and its Irish variant could fill the most sordid moments with a kind of mad, tragi-comic beauty. He has his moments, even now, although even these are sometimes marred by overdoing the sudden changes of linguistic register. 'God there may be a few laughs left in me but they're not never ever going to come out unless there is a laugh left in somebody else somewhere and he laughs first.' That is good old-fashioned Donleavy. But why the 'not never ever'? The Lady who Liked Clean Rest Rooms is the tale of a southern belle, Jocelyn Guenevere Marchantiere (Joy), on the fast track from wealth and status to penury. Her motto comes in two sentences. 'Your snobberies are the most preciously valuable asset you will ever have in life, cherish them well. Avoid unbrave men and when you're away from your own trusted lavatory, only go to the cleanest of places to pee.' She follows the advice and her fortune is eventually restored. But not, as Donleavy might have punctuated it, before descending to the bottom. Of the barrel. Where lurks the choice of becoming a nun or a whore. If you are already a fan, this not particularly inspired book will at least remind you that you once liked the Donleavy style. But if you are new to the Donleavy canon, and are not averse to a bit of ribaldry, start with The Ginger Man, re-released and as entertaining as ever. The romping is probably less shocking today than it would have been when it first appeared in 1955. But changed times have not made the vile, drunk, scheming Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield any more of an officer or a gentleman. The man is, to use the deliberately quaint word put into the mouth of his upper-crust English wife, a rotter. Down on his luck, the American Dangerfield begs, sponges, steals and seduces his way through Dublin and London. He does this on the strength of an aristocratic but fake English accent. He is violent when drunk or in despair and hits not only barmen but women. Unlike some of Donleavy's other characters, and despite his occasional flashes of guilt and sentimentality, he is entirely without redeeming features as a human being. Yet not only do the sponged-off and the mistreated women come back for more (this being a novel written by an unreconstructed male chauvinist), the reader ends up hooked on his exploits too. And when the bounder has you hooked, there are the linguistic fireworks to reel you in.