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A Confederacy of Dunces [Paperback]

John Kennedy Toole , Walker Percy
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (652 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 21 1994 Evergreen Book
A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).

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From Amazon

"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 Lana Lee 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

From Library Journal

Narrator Barrett Whitener renders Toole's cast of caricatures with verve enough to satisfy admirers. Toole wrote this novel in Puerto Rico during a hitch in the U.S. Army. In 1966 it was rejected by Simon & Schuster. In 1969 Toole committed suicide. Toole's mother then tried to get it published. After seven years of rejection she showed it to novelist Walker Percy, under whose encouragement it was published by Louisiana State University Press. Many critics praised it as a comic masterpiece that memorably evokes the city of New Orleans and whose robust protagonist is a modern-day Falstaff, Don Quixote, or Gargantua. Toole's prose is energetic, and his talent, had it matured, may have produced a masterpiece. However, listeners who do not feel charmed or amused by a fat, flatulent, gluttonous, loud, lying, hypocritical, self-deceiving, self-centered blowhard who masturbates to memories of a dog and pretends to profundity when he is only full of beans are not likely to survive the first cassette. For fans.?Peter Josyph, New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Southern-fried hilarity March 22 2007
Filled with satirical black humor concerning the usually overlooked 'characters' of society, John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer prize winning novel THE CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES , captures a reality of our society that we like to disregard. In THE CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES the unique tempo and the slow pace of the overall development of the plot creates a feel of dreary, everyday life, while the immediate happenings tend to be absurd, ridiculous, or down right stupid. In many instances Toole will jump between a third person point of view subjective to different characters, or a objective point of view depicting the seen from many angles making the absurdity of the happenings or the actions and words of our hero Ignatius J. Riely painfully clear. Then the long tedious exchanges of letters between Myna Minkoff and Ignatius, or the journals of Ignatius, though still absurd, draws out the story and creates a weary response from the reader. Energetic, dreary, energetic, dreary.... The delicate mixture of excitement and dullness creates a parallel with life, a disturbing realization due to the fact that readers tend to think the actions of the characters in this novel 'not normal'. There are many 'characters' in this novel, to tell the truth all most all characters that appear in this novel are not what people would like to call 'normal'. Still, none can beat Ignatius J. Riely in uniqueness. 'Huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantuan, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter' (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times), how did this complete slob of a man ever make it to the cover of a best seller? Through out the book he undergoes no mental growth (he does gain some pounds though), and his only reason for even considering moving is threats! What is the point of putting such a complete 'character' in the main role? Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic New Orleans, if you can believe that now July 22 2007
What a time capsule this novel is: Set in pre-Katrina New Orleans---loooong before that, it is a perfect-pitched novel of the city, capturing the rollicking good times and oddness that the place is--or was. I love anything Southern, but especially literature, and "Confederacy" read like a cross between "Bark of the Dogwood" and one of Vonnegut's books, say, "Slaughter House Five." It's a shame that Toole never lived to see how many people have come to love this book. For THAT,I recommend "The Neon Bible" if you want more of the author. Must also recommend the novels "Katzenjammer" by McCrae, and "Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a dud June 9 2003
Although I'm usually pretty critical of books, it takes a lot in order for me to give a book only one star. I picked this one up because it had won a Pulitzer and I was going to New Orleans soon and wanted some relevant (fictional) reading. I don't deny that Toole had some ambitious aims when he began this book--and yes, I agree it's a satire. But I didn't find it that effective because I could barely recognize humanity in these people. I usually think of satire as a social criticism involving humor and exaggeration. This book is filled with exaggerations--but I really didn't find it funny at all. Moreover, I could see what types of connections the author was trying to make with his critique, but I didn't find them at all compelling or even believable. In fact, I found the casting to be trite and ill-formed and am forced to agree with previous reviewers in saying that the majority of the book seemed redundant and annoying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Minor Characters Are The Key April 12 2007
This book is hysterical and very well-written with lots of good description. What makes it work best, though, are the minor characters. They're so interesting and have all their own motives. Today it seems that most minor characters, both in books and film, just stand around, waiting to say something that the main character can use to solve a mystery or make a joke. Then they are gone, their purpose fulfilled. They are pointless. The ones here, though, serve alot of purpose and color the story. It's not surprising it was written in the 1960's. A book written today probably wouldn't have minor characters so flushed out and interesting. I also recommend "God is a Woman: Dating Disasters" and "Schmucks"; both of which are very funny, although not as well-written as this book. Hey, not all books can be pulitzer winners!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the mayhem ensue Jan. 10 2005
The root of both the comedy of the book and many reviewes' hatred is Ignatius P. Reilly, the corpulent, egotistical anit-hero of the novel. Ignatius is probably the funniest character ever created and CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES is maybe THE funniest book. He's gaseous and insipid with a pompous streak. The only character that comes close to Ignatius is that of Strekfus Beltzenschmidt in THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD (another great rollicking tale of romping through the South). New Orleans is also character in the book, the way New York was in the movie MIDNIGHT COWBOY. Overall a fine novel, full of sound and fury and a whole lot of laughter. Also try the McCrae book, "Bark of the Dogwood" for an equally good time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Takes a while, but worth the wait March 28 2006
Much like many great books, this takes a few pages to get into, but it really is a laugh-out-loud book. It's the kind of book that when you see strangers reading it, you feel compelled to start talking about it with them. This is slapstick humor with an advanced degree -- it's silly event after silly event, but done so intelligently that you can't help but read this book with a wry grin on your face. Try this book! If you like slapstick you will enjoy it. Another book I need to recommend ---- Katzenjammer(J.T.Mccrae)----- which is even more hysterical It's as if Toole was channeled by the author. And we could use another "Toole."
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a Crazy World
An intricate plot involving marginalized characters that takes the reader on a wild and often hilarious ride. The use of evocative language is spectacular.
Published 4 months ago by Lynn Ziegler
5.0 out of 5 stars Cute Comedy
Very entertaining and funny literary accomplishment, would recommend for any good read. Wish they could finally decide to make a movie of it.
Published 7 months ago by Linda McMullen
1.0 out of 5 stars dumb
maybe it's my sense of humor (or lack thereof). Gave up after about 30 pages.
My daughter recommended this book - she thought it was the funniest thing ever. Read more
Published 7 months ago by corry erdmann
1.0 out of 5 stars Pulitzer?
I consider myself widely read and enjoy a diverse selection of styles. Westerns, thrillers, horrors, biographies, you name it I read them. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Paul R. Bolton
1.0 out of 5 stars Not arrived
The item was due to arrive February 18th. I have not received it yet. Hopefully it's here soon so I can read it for February book club still!
Published 19 months ago by Waiting on item
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands the test of time
There are very few books that I have read that hold up as well as this one has. Almost 40 years after it was written, almost nothing in this book reads stale or dated. Read more
Published on July 24 2012 by M. Yakiwchuk
2.0 out of 5 stars A few dog eared and a broken spine. But as promised.
Was as promised. A few dog eared pagese broken spine but all in all a good quality book. It was what I expected from a used book depository.
Published on Dec 10 2011 by Joanna
5.0 out of 5 stars flat out funniest book ever read.
Like I said, its the funniest book I ever read.

Complete depression when the book ended.
Published on Sept. 2 2010 by Razzle Dash Dazzle
5.0 out of 5 stars Get it!
An instant classic that will have you in stitches. In all his misery Ignatius becomes someone we can all relate to and rally around.
Published on May 8 2010 by Pantelis Tsinalis
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly hilarious
Easily one of the funniest books I have ever read, and very deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it received. A must-read if you like comedy, or just excellent writing.
Published on March 23 2009 by Dr. Dave
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