A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
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.