585 of 618 people found the following review helpful
A Comic Masterpiece,
This review is from: A Confederacy of Dunces (Hardcover)
This book is quite simply a comic masterpiece, a novel brimming with original characters, absurd situations, and at its heart a blustery, vulnerable mama's boy named Ignatius J. Reilly. He is one of the most startlingly original characters in modern fiction, and his efforts at hitting the job market after his mother smashes their car will leave you in stitches.
A word on the history of the novel is worth mentioning here. The author, John Kennedy Toole, committed suicide in 1969, and his mother found the hand-written manuscript in her son's papers. She brought them to a publisher, who dreaded having to read even a portion of the work and to notify Toole's mother that it stunk. Instead, he was blown away by Toole's draft, and the rest is history. The novel earned him a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, and it is universally hailed by critics.
Trying to summarize the plot is impossible - the book cannot really be categorized. Ignatius is an over-educated oaf who stays home filling his writing tablets full of his offbeat musings on ancient history, which he plans to organize and publish some day but which presently reside all over his bedroom floor. Rome wasn't built in a day he reminds himself. He cites in footnotes, as authority for some of his offbeat opinions, papers he had previously written and hand-delivered to the local university library for inclusion into their archives. He watches dreadful tv shows and movies, howling at the screen with a mixture of delight and loathing at the teenybopper drivel, and in the privacy of his room his self-gratification is performed while imagining visions of the old family dog. And wait til you see him out in public, getting a series of odd jobs, including a filing clerk at Levy Pants (with very innovative filing techniques to avoid crowded file space) as well as a costumed hot dog vendor wandering around the French Quarter in a pirate costume. All the while he begins work on his latest opus, The Journal of the Working Boy.
There is a latent sadness to the plot, for while you are laughing out loud at Ignatius, his bowling-addicted mother, and the motley crew of skillfully drawn supporting characters, you sense that he will never really belong anywhere, and that he realizes his outcast status with his innate intelligence. Perhaps the author felt the same way in 1969, leading to his own suicide.
However, at least Toole did leave us A Confederacy of Dunces, a novel which reveals more with each rereading. Keep it on your shelf, and every now and then pick up the book to any page and marvel at the absurdity of Ignatius's grandiose ramblings, read exerpts of his bizarre historical writings, and revisit his comic efforts to organize a worker's revolt at Levy Pants. The list goes on and on. There is no work of litereature like it I know, and my only regret in reading Toole is the sorrow felt in knowing the tremendous body of work that was lost when he ended his life.
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Showing 21-30 of 46 posts in this discussion
Posted on Aug 10, 2012 8:48:18 AM PDT
If you ever wrote something, please inform me. The greatness of your insight cannot be understated. Whether you're a writer or a reader, you have my utmost respect.
Posted on Sep 6, 2012 10:55:13 AM PDT
I can't say enough about this book. I read it when it first came out and have read it about 5 times more. Not a day goes by where I don't think of something someone in the book has said - just today I told someone to "Look on the bright side" and cracked up inside. PLUS Ignatius has taught me a lot about office decorating, filing and business letter writing.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2012 9:02:18 AM PDT
Bruce Martin says:
Then you need to read Carl Hiaasen's book "Sick Puppy" - equally uproarious written by a man who may not have seen it all, but he comes close, being from South Floriduh.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 1, 2013 9:38:52 PM PST
Becky Marie Brignac says:
Don't forget the time period it was written in. Most New Orleanians love the book. maybe because they could relate to the characters. neighbors and family.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2013 3:46:26 PM PST
Haleh B says:
Sour cherries? Numb Wits...
In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2014 7:27:38 PM PDT
A great book doesn't need likable characters nor a plot, what gave you that impression those are required? I myself though love the characters.
In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2014 7:29:09 PM PDT
Or one of those immoral and uncouth people Ignatius despises.
Posted on Jul 10, 2014 10:03:48 AM PDT
"...my only regret in reading Toole is the sorrow felt in knowing the tremendous body of work that was lost when he ended his life." Perfect review. Toole is on my short list of people I want to meet in heaven. What incredible talent, such a waste. I'm also a huge fan of Vonnegut, the Sirens of Titan being my favorite. Any other suggestions you could turn me on to would be greatly appreciated.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2014 10:06:18 AM PDT
You are certainly entitled to your opinion and what a great idea reading books that have won the Pulitzer Prize. But I loved this book and think Toole is a true genius. Do you enjoy Vonnegut? certain similarities but I think Toole is actually better and I'm a huge Vonnegut fan.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2014 10:18:22 AM PDT
Enjoyed your comments.
It is extremely tightly constructed. The book gives the appearance of rambling but the pieces fit together like a Swiss clock, that's its genius. An amazing work. The best thing a book can do is take the reader on a journey into the mind of the author. Toole was brilliant and we actually experience the way he thinks when we read his book. Very sad in the end because the journey is over and we can't experience Toole again for the first time. I have re-read it but it's like watching the Godfather a second time, you know where it's going. There can only be one first read. It's always the book I recommend to people who love good literature and I envy anyone who hasn't read it yet.