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A Confederacy of Dunces Paperback – January 1, 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars 3,103 ratings

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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

Review

Pulitzer Prize Winner

“A masterwork . . . the novel astonishes with its inventiveness . . . it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A corker, an epic comedy, a rumbling, roaring avalanche of a book.”—The Washington Post

“An astonishingly good novel, radiant with intelligence and artful high comedy.”—Newsweek

“One of the funniest books ever written . . . it will make you laugh out loud till your belly aches and your eyes water.”—The New Republic

“The episodes explode one after the other like fireworks on a stormy night. No doubt about it, this book is destined to become a classic.”—The Baltimore Sun

“The dialogue is superbly mad. You simply sweep along, unbelievably entranced.”—The Boston Globe

“An astonishingly original and assured comic spree.”—New York Magazine

“As hilarious as it indisputably is, A Confederacy of Dunces is a serious and important work.”— Los Angeles Herald Examiner

"If a book's price is measured against the laughs it provokes, A Confederacy of Dunces is the bargain of the year." — Time

“A brilliant and evocative novel.” —San Francisco Chronicle

"I found myself laughing out loud again and again as I read this ribald book." —Christian Science Monitor

“Crazy magnificent once-in-a-blue-moon first novel. . . . There is a touch of genius about Toole and what he has created.” —Publishers Weekly

“A masterpiece of character comedy . . . brilliant, relentless, delicious, perhaps even classic.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Astonishing, extravagant, lunatic, satiric, and peculiar, but it is above all genuine, skillful, and unsentimentally comic.” —Booklist

Ignatius J. Reilly is Bette Midler’s favorite hero of fiction (Vanity Fair, August 2008)

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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
3,103 customer ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2017
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Top international reviews

DAVID BRYSON
5.0 out of 5 stars REALLY? NO, REILLY
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 13, 2019
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1.0 out of 5 stars Load of rubbish.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 19, 2019
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34 people found this helpful
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Ed Clayton
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few novels that are truly necessary, funny and indispensable. Shame the author never lived to see it published.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 21, 2017
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E. Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars THE ABSURDITY OF IT ALL IS FANTASTICALLY FUNNY
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 7, 2019
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Katua
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the all time great novels
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 29, 2017
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Dee. Fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2019
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victor meldrew and then some
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 13, 2019
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JuneyHod
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of money. Insult to the senses
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 14, 2019
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PB
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea but what do I know?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2019
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Leni
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 17, 2015
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Russ Tattersall
4.0 out of 5 stars Needs effort and commitment to appreciate
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 21, 2019
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Chivz
1.0 out of 5 stars Absurdist but greatly flawed.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 9, 2020
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Leonie G
4.0 out of 5 stars Oddly compelling; stays with you
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 25, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic Comedy- an unusual book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 3, 2019
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BazookaJoe
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud funny
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 7, 2019
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