Friday, June 13, 2014

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Reviewed by Laurie

Note:  If you are easily offended, you may want to skip this review.  You would certainly want to skip the book.

Why did I pick this book up?  I was shelving and I saw the title: Confederacy (which make me think Civil War) and then Dunces, which made me laugh.  I can’t help it that I’m a Yankee, according to my very Southern husband.  I couldn’t imagine what this book was about.  The cover blurb says, “The Pulitzer Prize winning novel featuring Ignatius Reilly and his marvelous, madcap adventures in New Orleans.”  Well, New Orleans isn’t the “True South,” it’s in a class of its own.

The reviews all sounded good.  There were quotes from Newsweek, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Book Review all saying that this book is a great comedy. I could use some good laughs, and it would be a change from all my murder mysteries.  Maybe I’ll read it.  I ask Jeanne about it first and she tells me of the strange way the book was published.  It was written in the 1960s and the author committed suicide.  His mother found the manuscript and worked for sixteen years to get it published.  When it finally does come out as a book, it wins the Pulitzer Prize. 

I’m intrigued so I start reading.  Oh, my goodness!  The main character, Ignatius Reilly, is totally obnoxious.  He constantly rambles on about sex, orgies, old sodomites, and other things.  He writes all these things down in Big Chief notebooks. In the preface, Southern writer Walker Percy (who helped to get the book published) says that Ignatius is “"slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one.”  He really is, and more.  The storyline is that he has been living with his mother and doing pretty much nothing but then he has to go out and look for a job.  This is the way he meets all these priceless characters.  I can picture each one, especially Burma Jones,  who has an Afro, wears sunglasses, and has a cloud of cigarette smoke around his head at all times. There’s also Miss Trixie, who is as old as dirt and senile. She’s a secretary at Levy Pants, and Ignatius thinks she is the Medusa of Capitalism. 

Do I like the book?  I’m not sure.  It’s so bizarre and different from what I usually read.  Am I glad I read it?  I think I am.  There’s something about it; it stays with you.  Ignatius is so weird yet I’m envious that he can make the biggest scene in the world and never think of it as his fault.  How freeing is that? My favorite part is the ending, and that’s not because it’s over with.  This is one of the best endings to a book that I’ve ever read.  The author doesn’t leave anything hanging and everything ends in a wonderful place.

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