A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Ignatius J. Reilly is thirty years old, has rarely left his home of New Orleans (and don’t even get him started on the story of his bus ride to Baton Rouge — it was a horrible experience) and lives with his mother. Although he doesn’t work, per se, his time is consumed with writing his opus, disdaining pop culture, and being a cross for his mother to bear.

When his poor mother begins to indulge a little more than usual in her drink of choice (currently muscatel), she crashes the car into the side of a building. The financial distress from the accident necessitates Ignatius’s getting a job to help support his own expenses for the first time in his life.

What follows are a series of hysterical and unbelievable events starring Ignatius as he goes from job to job (including a stint in the office at Levy Pants and a hot dog salesman (though he mostly just eats his product)) and from one unexpectedly comical situation to the next. Reilly vacillates between being a detestable and a merely pathetic character, but either way his exploits will keep readers wanting more.

Author John Kennedy Toole wrote the story of Reilly pulling from experiences in own life, and partially based the character on a professor of his at Tulane University. After being rejected by Simon and Schuster for publication of A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole, who had suffered from paranoia and depression for much of his life, committed suicide. The book was posthumously published some 11 years later and Toole was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981.

In contrast with the unhappy story surrounding the publication of this novel, it is brimming with comical and unforeseen scenarios. I actually picked this up accidentally, mistaking it for Confederates in the Attic (a very, very different book) and was happy I did.

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One Response to “A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole”

  1. jacquelincangro Says:

    I agree – this is a great read. Every time I reread it I always find something new in the story to marvel at.

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