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A Confederacy of Dunces [Hardcover]

John Kennedy Toole
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,706 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs."

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. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel with the sad history turns 20 (LJ 4/15/80). This story about a young man's isolation still rings true at a time when millions interact more with computers than with other people. This anniversary edition contains a new introduction by Andrei Codrescu.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

A masterpiece of character comedy finally published more than ten years after its writing, thanks to novelist Walker Percy - who furnishes a foreword. The character? Ignatius J. Reilly - reader of Boethius and drinker of bottle after bottle of Dr. Nut, virgin and lute player, writer-down of maledictions against contemporary society (in Big Chief writing tablets), owner of an erratic pyloric valve that gives him "bloat," wearer of desert boots, tweeds, and a green hunting cap with flaps. He's huge and obese, he lives with his widowed dipso mother in a ramshackle New Orleans half-house. Fastidious slob, rhetorical wreck in excellsis, Ignatius was once a grad student - but the trauma of a ride on a Greyhound Scenicruiser to Baton Rouge for a teaching-job interview has sworn him off work ever since. Mother Reilly, however, backs him into another try at employment. And his first job is at a hopeless clothing factory, Levy Pants, where the bookkeeper is senile ("Am I retired yet?" she every so often asks no one in particular) and where the black factory workers use the machines for home sewing, since no one actually buys Levy Pants. Shocked, Ignatius organizes a "Crusade for Moorish Dignity" to better the black workers' plight - and that's the end of that job. Next he's a hot-dog vendor, and then events take an indescribable spiraling turn involving pornographic pictures, a libel suit against Levy Pants, an old Bronx girlfriend of Ignatius', a woeful undercover cop, and a sleazy bar. (Here we meet grandly funny Burma Jones, an unwilling black janitor and sidewalk shill: "Hey! All you peoples draggin along here. Stop and come stick your ass on a Night of Joy stool. . . . Night of Joy got genuine color peoples workin below the minimal wage. Whoa! Guarantee plantation atmosphere, got cotton growin right on the stage right in front your eyeball, got a civil right worker gettin his ass beat up between show. Hey!") The novel can hardly contain burstingly funny Ignatius - and the mix of high and low comedy is almost stroboscopic: brilliant, relentless, delicious, perhaps even classic. Unfortunately, this is all we'll have of Toole's talent; he committed suicide in 1969, age 32, leaving only this astounding book. (Kirkus Reviews) --Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

John Kennedy Toole was born in New Orleans in 1937. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son's book was eventually published and found the audience it deserved. His long-suppressed novel The Neon Bible, written when he was only sixteen, was eventually published as well. A Confederacy of Dunces won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning tale, a giant adult brat in New Orleans is so monstrously self-absorbed, opinionated and cocksure of himself as to create hilarious mayhem wherever he goes. Barrett Whitener strikes just the right note of Rabelaisian iconoclasm. He does justice, not only to each memorably drawn character, but also to the witty, elegant writing. Alas, he falters a bit on the humor; as the novel progresses, one detects a hint of fatigue in his voice, or at least a waning of invention. As good as Whitener is, this is a book that yields its treasures best on the printed page. Y.R. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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