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A Confederacy of Dunces Paperback – 1987
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"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
From Library Journal
Oooo-eeee! Toole's outrageous rambling farce comes to life with the wonderful voices of Arte Johnson?surely one of the greatest matches ever of the written to the spoken word. Toole's novel, written in the early 1960s and published posthumously in the early 1980s, is one of the great comic works of the century and still fresh 35 years later. Toole's finest achievement is protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly, a great intellectual and deadbeat glutton who roams the squalor and charm of New Orleans causing enormous chaos, selling a few hot dogs from his weenie wagon, and suffering a pyloric valve shutdown at the general looniness of the characters he meets in places like the Night of Joy nightclub. Johnson has created a unique voice for each of the many fantastic, overblown crazies woven into this wild story. It's unfortunate that the audio version is abridged. Still, the spirit of the original is here. Highly recommended for all listeners who love a great belly laugh at the human condition.?Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I re-read aCoD every three to five years for a "humility tune up." The book is a highly polished soul mirror that's a lot more true-to-life than most people want it to be. Ignatius, or "His Royal Malignancy" as I like to call him, is the central character, and an extreme example of an arrogant bastard with absolutely nothing to be arrogant about, but the whole book is like a case study for John Calvin's doctrine of total depravity; everyone in it is---to some degree--indelibly screwed up. I suspect this is why so many people hate this book. At some point they see themselves here and realize that the depth of their own depravity is invariably greater than they suspected, realized, or certainly would ever have cared to admit.
If you love Ignatius J. Reilly, there is probably something really wrong with you, but if you hate him---there definitely is. Either way, you're doomed.
Ignatius Reilly may be the most colorful character written in the 20th century. He is rude, oddly intelligent on obscure ways, racist, narcissistic, and completely insane. He combines every bad mannered characteristic that you have encountered. You are supposed to both hate and pity his pathetic existence. This is the genius of John Kennedy Toole - he has created a character that is larger than life and has illuminated the insanity of his narcissistic ramblings.
I am not sure ow to explain the writing style - it can be difficult to follow. At times Toole changes perspective from paragraph to paragraph and intermingles the characters thoughts almost randomly. The prose is vey strong, but "A Confederacy of Dunces" was a slow read for me. it is difficult to explain it, but the style is similar to Faulkner - and it certainly is not everyone.
Many people compare "A Confederacy of Dunces" to Don Quixote but to me it reminds me more of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. All three combine ridiculous scenes, and some not-so-subtle social commentary. However, Toole is able to match the wit of Twain but is able to elevate the style of writing. One of the criticisms of Twain was that he wrote children's books (an unfair criticism in my view). Make no mistake - Toole has written a book for adults (and parts are rather vulgar).
Final Verdict - It really is a shame that Toole only left us this one work - perhaps he would have never been able to match "A Confederacy of Dunces" but it would have been interesting to have seen how he progressed as a writer.