Review: A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces showcases one of the most unfortunate heroes ever created. Ignatius J. Reilly has been revered as a modern day Don Quixote: radical, delusional, outspoken, and painfully idiotic. The books opening lines give us a glimpse at the style of this bumbling man: “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green ear flaps, full of large ears and uncut hair, and the fine bristles that grew of the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once.” In one word, Ignatius J. Reilly is a slob. He is unaware of his own moronic tendencies, yet manages to find fault in anything and everyone he sees the French Quarter of New Orleans, the place he calls home.

Ignatius is educated, though his opinions are constantly misguided. He has medieval worldview and references the philosopher Boethius, whom he reveres. Shockingly (thick sarcasm here), Ignatius is an unemployed freeloader and lives with his widowed mother, Irene. She, along with the other main characters in the novel, are equally as daft as Ignatius. She is somewhat of an alcoholic and takes care of her son as best she can, but an incident early in the novel leaves her short on cash and forces Ignatius to find employment. We follow Ignatius in his adventures in multiple places of employment, all of which he manages to botch in his own creative way.

The novel is thick with hilarious episodes of Ignatius’s extreme disdain, radical diatribes and awkward encounters. Author John Kennedy Toole’s strengths as a writer are in his detailed verbiage, yet nothing in this novel is attractive or intelligent. Time and again we are left laughing and wincing as the painful events unfold. Readers tend to either love or hate this book based on their opinion of Ignatius. If you are someone who is searching for redeemable qualities in a hero, you will find none here, but if you allow yourself to accept Ignatius J.’s absurd persona, you’ll be ROTFL from start to finish.

A little about the author: John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969, and the book was published post-mortem through the dedication of his mother who discovered the manuscript in his home after he died. It took her 11 years to get the novel published. Thank you to Thelma Toole; your persistence to honor your son and publish this novel has given us great joy.

About APC

Following his days in the Octagon, APC worked for an undisclosed amount of time tracking and studying a colony of Yetis in eastern Nepal (read more about his travels in his memoir, "Backgammon 101: Let the Yeti Win"). Nowadays, he spends his time in Havana fitting model ships inside glass bottles, and counting his gold bullions with his chimpanzee, Don Ultimo.
Currently Reading:
-Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
-East of Eden by John Stienbeck
-Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

Comments

  1. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with this book. As in I hated the first 75% and loved the final 25%. Hated Ignatius the whole way through, but the hate started to be fun…

    Should be mentioned that the book won the Pulitzer.

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