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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 alternate Paperback edition.
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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 was hooked from the first page. The book has a great flow to it with great evocative characters and wonderful dialogue. The book was written in 1963 so you have to remember it was a different world then. Helps to know a little about the social and political climate of that time period to put things in Perspective. Yes Ignatius is a jerk, but that's part of the beauty of this book.
I don't understand the negative reviews and the people that say they had to labor through it or couldn't finish it. I could not put this book down.
To me the mark of a great book is when you can't wait to steal away for even just a few minutes to read.
Easily one of the best books I have ever read if not THE best. I'm 54 and an avid reader so that says a lot.
The title fits the characters perfectly. Everyone of them. It was hilarious, entertaining, and kept me reading until I was finished. I'm glad I saw that story on the author's life, or else I would have never known about this book. This book is a must read for anyone, whether you live in New Orleans, or know a group of dunces and can relate. My one wish is that the author could have had this published and gotten the recognition he deserved before he took his life. Maybe it would have prevented his suicide and we could still be reading his works today.