Book: A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole
Grove Press / 1994
Hard Back / 394 Pages

Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole's tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. ("Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.") But Ignatius's quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso--who mistakes him for a vagrant--and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.

Over the next several hundred pages, our hero stumbles from one adventure to the next. His stint as a hotdog vendor is less than successful, and he soon turns his employers at the Levy Pants Company on their heads. Ignatius's path through the working world is populated by marvelous secondary characters: the stripper Darlene and her talented cockatoo; the septuagenarian secretary Miss Trixie, whose desperate attempts to retire are constantly, comically thwarted; gay blade Dorian Greene; sinister Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; and Myrna Minkoff, the girl Ignatius loves to hate. The many subplots that weave through A Confederacy of Dunces are as complicated as anything you'll find in a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end. But it is Ignatius--selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life--who carries the story. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. His fragility cracks the shell of comic bluster, revealing a deep streak of melancholy beneath the antic humor. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969 and never saw the publication of his novel. Ignatius Reilly is what he left behind, a fitting memorial to a talented and tormented life.

I picked this book up because Gilmore Girls & Reading the Recommended Reads of 2011

What I liked the Most? The characters are just that – 100% characters

What I liked the Least? OMG – the whining is endless

Review: OMG – I thought Edward was a tool but I have finally met his match in Ignatius J. Reilly. This book has been lauded as a truly great funny novel Americana and the only thing I can say is BULLSHIT. I don’t think I laughed a single time, but I did groan, try to claw my eyes out, and ultimately put the book down.

I’m pretty sure that the only reason this book is such a hit is that the people reading and praising it’s great intellect are all secret complainers and so indeed found a soul mate within Ignatius J. Reilly. The only thing that recommends this book is the fact that the hype around the author is cool. Basically he tried to get the book published, failed, killed himself, then his mom sends the manuscript off to yet another publisher with a note about how her son killed herself over not getting published and VIOLA published book.

Recommended to: No one

Best Quote: “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

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