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A Confederacy of Dunces

ISBN: 0802130208

Language: English

Publisher: Grove Press

Lowest Price: $3.60

A Confederacy of Dunces

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Overview

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs." Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole's tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. ("Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.") But Ignatius's quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso--who mistakes him for a vagrant--and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job. Over the next several hundred pages, our hero stumbles from one adventure to the next. His stint as a hotdog vendor is less than successful, and he soon turns his employers at the Levy Pants Company on their heads. Ignatius's path through the working world is populated by marvelous secondary characters: the stripper Darlene and her talented cockatoo; the septuagenarian secretary Miss Trixie, whose desperate attempts to retire are constantly, comically thwarted; gay blade Dorian Greene; sinister Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; and Myrna Minkoff, the girl Ignatius loves to hate. The many subplots that weave through A Confederacy of Dunces are as complicated as anything you'll find in a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end. But it is Ignatius--selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life--who carries the story. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. His fragility cracks the shell of comic bluster, revealing a deep streak of melancholy beneath the antic humor. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969 and never saw the publication of his novel. Ignatius Reilly is what he left behind, a fitting memorial to a talented and tormented life. --Alix Wilber

Customer Reviews

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Funniest book ever written

I just bought this book for my college aged nephew for Christmas. I first read the book back in the eighties. Since that time I have passed it on, in one form or another, to dozens of people. All have enjoyed it immensely. My wife and I play a running game when we're out in public. We'll spot someone who is Myrna Minkoff, Santa Battaglia, or Ignatius. We are constantly patrolling for "suspicious characters." What an absolute hoot. If you have ever lived in or around New Orleans, it is even better.

The Confederacy Lives, but so does this Book.

I have just re-read this for the umpteenth time. What a corker! It is amazing that the same character treatments--of Jones and of the various gay characters--that kept this "Modern Classic" from publication in its author's lifetime may well have also kept it from pubication (on Madison Avenue, anyway)in our time, for politically correct reasons. If you have not read it, do so soon--and then put it away for a fresh re-reading the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and ... you get the idea; I doubt that any book outside the Bible will be reread more than this will. It remains fresh every time! Tales As Tall As A Sunflower

Absolutely hilarious

I do not have the vocabulary to adequately tell you what this book is about but I will try. It is about a man who is educated way, way beyond his intelligence. He is useless, worthless and a complete moron. I never laughed so hard in my life. The situations he gets himself into from a hotdog vendor, to office worker, to trying to start a uprising in a factory, this man is useless. Have a dictionary nearby. For once, you have a book that isn't written at the 5th grade level.

An outstanding comedy

A friend loaned me a copy of this book over twenty years ago, telling me that this was a novel I simply must not miss reading. Not quite believing his enthusiastic praise, I opened the book and was introduced to the gargantuan, flatulent, self-important, arrogantly pseudo-intellectual person of Ignatius J. Reilly. By the end of the first paragraph, I was intrigued. By the end of the first scene, in which he nearly causes a riot in front of D.H Holmes, I was hopelessly hooked. In the decades that have passed since that first reading, "Confederacy" has steadily ascended my list of all-time favorite books, becoming more deliciously funny with each reading. Ignatius is an unforgettable character. Ensconced in his ramshackle room, strewn with Big Chief tablets filled with invective toward the twentieth century and his longing for the good old days of the Dark Ages, he brews his indictment of modernity and of anything and everything he considers lacking in "theology and geometry". Unfortunately for him, his mother's drunken driving brings the threat of legal action when she demolishes part of a building and he is faced with the appalling need to Go To Work. Needless to say, the working world isn't quite prepared for this Don Quixote in a hunting cap. Along the way, there are a number of equally priceless supporting characters, each a gem in its own right. The hopelessly inept Patrolman Mancuso sniffles his way about the seedier parts of New Orleans, in his outrageous "undercover" costume of the day, sadly hoping to arrest some "suspicious character". Miss Lana Lee, of the quite inappropriately named Night of Joy bar, provides, um, charity work for the orphans, discreetly wrapped in plain brown paper and collected by a local hoodlum. Then there's Jones, who plots his revenge against Lana's tyranny as an employer from within a cloud of blue cigarette smoke. All of these and others are superbly woven together in this grand comic tale, their stories and fates drawn together by Fortuna's wheel, as Ignatius might say. As others have remarked, Toole's suicide pre-empted what likely would have been a wonderful literary career. An unpublished author at his death, Toole's only other work is a short novel called "The Neon Bible", written while he was in his teens. That book is sufficiently inferior to "Confederacy" that I have never bothered to buy my own copy. However, I am now on my fourth copy of this novel, and expect it to continue to be a book I revisit time and again. Most highly recommended.

Quixote, Bergerac, Schweik, REILLY...

When I first saw the cover of this paperback in a Georgetown, DC, bookshop a few years ago, I was hesitant to buy it. Simply put, the cover is goofy, and does not do this masterpiece any justice. I am so grateful that I ignored my initial instinct, as I don't remember ever reading a funnier book in the English language than the late John Kennedy Toole's life achievement, nor is there a more memorable character in American literature than I. J. Reilly. The work deserves a 6 star rating! "A Confederacy of Dunces" is more than just incredibly funny, however. It is unusually poignant, gut-wrenchingly sad, and an admirable observation piece on a rather decadent and seemingly lost segment of our society sitting at the mouth of the Mississippi River. I have visited New Orleans three times since 1994 for varied reasons, and the city apparently has not changed in the least since Mr. Toole's late 1960s rendition. His characters continue to stroll and struggle along Bourbon Street and Canal Street, and their troubled spirits infuse every alley and cave of the French Quarter. Just like the district surrounding St. Peter's Square in the city of jazz, Ignatius J. Reilly is out of step with the rest of America. In spite of his repulsive and grossly comical physical presence, he believes in aesthetics and real meaning, in what he perceives to be the truth. For this reason, he is a true literary hero, like Don Quixote, Cyrano de Bergerac and the Good Soldier Schweik before him. One final note: before you buy this book, think about cancelling all your appointments and engagements for the two or three days that follow. They, along with eating and sleeping, undoubtedly will be totally neglected until you finish this 400 page tour de farce.
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