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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands the test of time July 24 2012
By M. Yakiwchuk TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. Everything is as fresh and relevant now as the day it was published. The language, character, and place, are all uniquely New Orlean'. But the story, is one for all time. Ignatius Reilly, 30 years old, University educated, lives at home with his long-suffering mother. The dialogue in this book is spot on. One word of caution: Don't think of this book as a comedy. I did, expecting to find many laughs. There aren't. There was one laugh-out-loud funny moment (for me) when the Reilly character is fantasizing about what he would do while on a bus ride, but that's it. I found Ignatius Reilly to be a little frustrating as a protagonist, as were some of the supporting characters. In the end, however, the circumstances around every major character change, and I enjoyed their progressions. Read A Confederacy of Dunces if: You are a 30-something person who still lives at home with his parents and haven't held down a "real" job. OR if you can relate in some way to this situation. Do not read A Confederacy of Dunces if: You are expecting a laugh-out-loud belly-buster. It's not a barn-burner of a novel. But it rings true. And books like this are hard to come by. A shame the author only wrote two before taking his own life. 5/5
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pulitzer? July 1 2013
I consider myself widely read and enjoy a diverse selection of styles. Westerns, thrillers, horrors, biographies, you name it I read them. After doing a search for the funniest novels of all time,this book consistently was named. After forcing myself to finish it I am at a loss as to how it can even be discussed as funny, let alone, all time funny, and don't even get me started on winning a Pulitzer as the best fiction book of 1981.
There were not even a handful of scenes that brought a smile to my lips. Nothing made me laugh, or want to share with a friend or family. Janet Evanovich on her worst day is 10 times funnier than this author.
I am stunned at all the 5 star reviews.
Bottom line, 1 star is too much for this book, but the rankings don't go any lower.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It's a Crazy World May 18 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An intricate plot involving marginalized characters that takes the reader on a wild and often hilarious ride. The use of evocative language is spectacular.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cute Comedy Feb. 18 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very entertaining and funny literary accomplishment, would recommend for any good read. Wish they could finally decide to make a movie of it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars dumb Feb. 11 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
Well, I could not see it and did not finish reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Flat Out Funny!... If You Like Slapstick Comedy July 1 2005
Ignatius J. Reilly is perhaps the funniest character in literature, and I don't say that lightly, because he has no idea that he is a complete loser. Horribly fat, lacking in any social graces, and oblivious to any consequences of his actions, he considers himself an educated scholar, immune to the mundane things the rest of us need to do, such as work. Unfortunately, he is forced into this world when his mother pulls the rug out from under him.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
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 17 months ago by Waiting on item
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Outrageous And Great Outsider Novel
I'll say this. This novel is quite unlike any other. It's nonconformist to the core, well written and very funny. Now, when I say funny I mean oddball funny, weird funny. Read more
Published on Dec 7 2007 by Christa DeGrazia
5.0 out of 5 stars wacky silly stuff, plus some wistfulness
A classic story that makes me a bit sad to think about considering that the author died young and by his own hand. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2007 by Paul J. Fitzgerald
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
One of the funniest books I've read. I've recommended it to people and they either love it, or can't get through the first chapter.
Published on Oct. 10 2007 by Ignatious Riley
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