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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
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. --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.
I gather from perusing some of the 1-star reviews, that some people find Ignatius too distasteful and repellent to empathize/sympathize with (or in some cases, even finish the book). That's fine. To each their own; but to me that only strengthens the argument that Toole did a masterful job in crafting the character. He's too offensive to even read?! Awesome. Just imagine if you were a character in the book that had to actually deal with him face to face. Oh the horror! Sympathize with those poor souls.
Yet, despite his beastly outward appearance, he's still very much a child at heart. Living with his mom, doing dead end jobs, dressing up in costume, fantasizing, developing ideologies and attempting to act on them. Let's be honest, no matter what our age or place in life, we all still have a bit of that going on within us. We just don't always act on it like Ignatius does.
The results of his antics- and other characters' reactions to them- while not terribly surprising in my opinion, are still worth a read; and definitely worth 5 stars.
I'm glad I did.
I bring a unique perspective to this book as a self-proclaimed pop culture geek. It's from that mindset that I realized that this book is (wholly by accident) about the genre convention stereotype: "the fanboy". The main character, Ignatius Jacques Reilly exhibits the following qualities:
1. Socially awkward to the point of being overly social. You know the type.
2. He dresses outrageously and is never without his mismatched hunting cap (much like cosplayers out of costume.)
3. He gets into long winded nonsensical arguments with about random things via letters (very much akin to online "flame wars" on fan forums.)
4. He cites Batman comics as the only impactful literature of the time.
5. He still lives with his mom while in his thirties.
A Confederacy of Dunces is a satire that depicts the ridiculous antics of various folks in New Orleans on the 1960s. It is profounds in its biting commentary on people and essays have been written about the book and the deceased author (if you haven't read the story behind him, DO IT) - yet none that I have found point out the obvious (at least to me) connection to current stereotypes in fandom culture.
If you've ever walked the around San Diego Comic Con or Dragon*Con, I suggest you take some time to read this and see how alive and well Ignatius is in today's society.