Monday, June 05, 2006

Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

I recently finished A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. The novel was published in 1980, 11 years after the author killed himself, after it was brought to the attention of novelist Walker Percy by Toole's mother. Percy wrote an insightful forward to the novel; read it here. The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a fat, lazy, and somewhat delusional slob, who rebels against modern society by hiding in his bedroom and scribbling out diatribes on notepads. After his mother drunkenly drives into a building and is sued by the owner, Ignatius is forced out into the city of New Orleans to look for work. Ignatius and society are a combustible mix, and the protagonist finds himself in a series of misadventures involving an array of colorful characters from the French Quarter. I found Ignatius' gluttony and sloth repellent, but at the same time, he's intoxicatingly hilarious. The best part of the novel is the rich language. For example, here's Ignatius describing his ordinary routine:

I am at this moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labours, I make an occasional cheese dip.

Not many books have made me laugh out loud, and this one did several times. Toole was awarded the Pulitzer prize in literature in 1981. It's a shame that he wasn't alive to witness the success of his writing. The fact that the author's manuscript was discovered by his mother made me think of Ignatius, barricaded in his room, yelling at his mother, and working on his own manifesto. I wonder what else the author had in common with his misunderstood protagonist.


Johnny Reb said...

Interesting blog. Keep up the good work.


Johnny Reb

SCV Member said...

A good read. I'm looking for info on the civil war and anything related to it.


SCV member
Bartow County History