This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has sold over three-quarters of a million copies and continues to earn critical acclaim. The story of one Ignatius J. Reilly, a "Don Quixote of the French Quarter," it is a masterpiece of human folly and tragedy.
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
Every character in this book is a caricature to some degree, and ridiculous because of it -- yet, they are instantly recognizable as similar to people you've met in some part of your life. There is a Joseph Heller-esque humor here, but without the political overtones. I'd compare this humor to a Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams, except that it is grounded much more in reality -- it's just that the humor within this text is silly humor in that same vein.
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 -- completely unrelated to Toole, but very much on my mind since I purchased it "used" off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, an exceptional, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.