Posted by: Matt | November 2, 2007

A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
394 pgs.

A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer prize in 1981 after being published in 1980. Unfortunately, both of these events occurred after John Kennedy Toole’s suicide in 1969.

This book is about Ignatius Reilly, an overweight, slob of a man who prefers to sit in his room all day writing his insane ideas about the world in notebooks. Eventually his mother forces him to find a job. Unfortunately for the citizens of New Orleans this can only result in disaster. The story relates a series of misadventures for Mr. Reilly as he searches for, obtains and looses a series of jobs. The book really must be read to understand the bizarre thoughts and actions of Ignatius.

From the reviews I have read of this book it seems people either love or hate this book. Ignatius Reilly is a pretty repulsive and unlikable character. And many readers find themselves hating him. However, I found him to be quite entertaining and sometimes hilarious. It was actually ancillary characters whom I found to be most irritating. At times I found myself wishing harm upon these other characters because of my dislike for them. I must confess it takes a talented author to make me feel this strongly.

Although Ignatius’ ideas are quite unique and his behavior entertaining, after a time he becomes repetitive. This leads to the plot becoming a bit tiring in the third quarter of the book. The editor likely could have done some better work cutting pages to keep the material fresh. That is a fairly minor complaint however.

If you can get through the first 10 pages or so without being turned off by Ignatius you will likely enjoy A Confederacy of Dunces. It has a few chuckles in it, which for me is pretty impressive as I don’t often laugh out loud when reading. In addition, the ending wraps things up quite nicely.

This is a very good and quite entertaining novel. It is unfortunate the author did not live to see the critical acclaim this book received.

Rating: 4.0



  1. I definitely have this on my list of books to read sometime in the near future!! Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Hated it! Although I did get farther than 10 pages, I didn’t finish it. There are more than a few people whose taste I trust that loved it, but I’m not one of them.

  3. I remember being amused when I read this book years ago, and I would agree with your comment: “At times I found myself wishing harm upon these other characters because of my dislike for them. I must confess it takes a talented author to make me feel this strongly.”

  4. Stephanie – Hope you like it, because as I said it seems to be a polarizing book.

    Carrie K – Not surprised, as I mentioned this book is definitely one of those that people either love or hate. I was afraid I would be on the hating side… 🙂

    gentle reader – Unfortunately not all of the characters I hated got what was coming to them…

  5. It’s been a long, long while since I read this book but I remember enjoying it so much that I could barely do my job answering phones as a receptionist. I don’t really recall disliking any of the characters very vehemently, but like I said, it’s been a while. I didn’t know until after I went in search of more O’Toole novels that he’d committed suicide. Such a sad story.

    One wonders why they don’t give the novel as less…goofy-looking cover, though. It just looks so dated, don’t you think?

  6. J.S. Peyton – I can’t remember the last time I loathed a character as much as I did a couple of them in this book. I believe Toole wrote one other novel before his death, I know of at least one. It’s too bad he didn’t live to see the success, but I wonder if it would have changed anything… And yes, the cover to this edition is awful, it is probably the worst cover on a book I own.

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