Every now and then, a book comes by, rocks your world, and completely shakes your foundations by changing the way you think.
A Confederacy of Dunces is not one of those books – but it’s close.
John Kennedy Toole simply fascinated me with this book. The dialogue, vocabulary, humor, and character development are simply unequaled. You have to read it to believe it.
However, just because it’s such an amazing read doesn’t mean that you’ll get a whole lot out of it, other than entertainment. Go ahead and read the reviews on Amazon.com – you will quickly realize that everybody loves this book, but nobody knows what in the hell it’s about.
My best way to describe A Confederacy of Dunces is that it’s a story about a man who is unfit (in all senses of the word) for society who gets thrust straight into our cultural beast – and loads of ridiculousness and shenanigans ensue.
Ignatius J. Reilly, our protagonist, is an obese man with a world-view that is simply out of this world. While this filthy thirty-year-old man who lives with his mother isn’t stirring trouble at his newly-found occupations, he’s busy writing his memoirs and obsessing over his pyloric valve.
The dialogue is simply ridiculous. Here are a few chosen passages:
“She appears to have been knocked a bit in her life already. Up rather than down. If she ever nears me, however, the direction will be reversed.”
And from the end of the famous opening paragraph:
In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly’s supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person’s lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one’s soul.
The subplots weave together in such a manner that it makes Seinfeld look like a woman’s social.
The most unfortunate part of this book is that John Kennedy Toole committed suicide before he could get it published. Toole fell into depression after the manuscript was rejected due to it “not being about anything” (which it’s really not). It was only noticed after Toole’s mother found it under his bed and pressed for a Professor Walker Percy at Tulane to get it published. It is a shame that we do not have more of Toole’s writings out there.
If you’re a serious person (and I assume you’re not since you’re reading my blog), then don’t read this book. Go read 7 Habits or some offensive tripe like that.
But if you’re looking for a good read that is completely out of left field, and perhaps lacks a bit of taste and decency, then I implore you to read A Confederacy of Dunces.