Book Review: Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole

Posted on August 30, 2010

Might as well let you know my favourite book of all time is “Tom Jones.” Why do I mention this? Because ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ is one of the only books has come close to touching it.

Our hero is Ignatius J. Reilly, lifelong resident of New Orleans. Although college educated, he spends his days holed up in his bedroom in his mother’s house, writing letters to future faithful readers, masturbating while thinking about his dead dog and reading the works of Boethius among other Midieval philosophers.

Things change when his mother, after some time at a bar, crashes her car, and finds herself indebted. She forces her son to go to work, and that is where our comic misadventures begin. Finding work at a failing jeans company, Ignatius manages to, well, change things forever.

This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. This goes not only for fiction but also non fiction. I literally LOL’d at this book. While I was by myself. Yeah. Every character is, well, a character. From the bumbling, enpranked police officer to the quarrelling owner of the factory where Ignatius begins his work, everybody is well rounded and hilarious.

On top of this, the storytelling is marvellous. You flit from scene to scene as multiple storylines grow throughout New Orleans. On top of this, Toole never finds it completely necessary to tell his story in standard means. Oftentimes you find out what happen in between chapters through Ignatius’s letters to his fictitious readers or during a police report.

Even more fascinating is the story of how this novel came to be. It was first published in 1980, despite Toole’s suicide in 1969. He spent much of his life trying to get this book published, but obviously failed. So, in 1969, he went on a road trip where he visited the hometown of the deceased Flannery O’Conner, and killed himself. 10 years later, his mother approached the literature professor at Loyola, who promised to read the first 10 pages, and kept reading, finding it, as Toole imagined, to be a comic masterpiece. Toole received a postumous Pulitzer prize in 1981.

This book is easily one of my top 5 favorite books, and I can’t believe I took it so long. Please, do the right thing, run don’t walk to your locally owned and operated book store and pick it up. Or, order it from Powell’s after clicking the following link:

A Confederacy of Dunces

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One Response to “Book Review: Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole”

  1. evie on August 31st, 2010 12:01 pm

    Heath – I agree with you here. I read this when I was living in Newport, now I want to read it again since my mind is . . . different. Thanks.

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