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A Confederacy of Dunces Paperback – Jan 31 1994
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"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
Oooo-eeee! Toole's outrageous rambling farce comes to life with the wonderful voices of Arte Johnson?surely one of the greatest matches ever of the written to the spoken word. Toole's novel, written in the early 1960s and published posthumously in the early 1980s, is one of the great comic works of the century and still fresh 35 years later. Toole's finest achievement is protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly, a great intellectual and deadbeat glutton who roams the squalor and charm of New Orleans causing enormous chaos, selling a few hot dogs from his weenie wagon, and suffering a pyloric valve shutdown at the general looniness of the characters he meets in places like the Night of Joy nightclub. Johnson has created a unique voice for each of the many fantastic, overblown crazies woven into this wild story. It's unfortunate that the audio version is abridged. Still, the spirit of the original is here. Highly recommended for all listeners who love a great belly laugh at the human condition.?Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Aptly, this is a novel filled with deranged obsessive compulsive characters. But this plot lacks some sanity to stitch it together. The humor is overwrought and gets tiresome. I felt like I was driving a 4wd Jeep in reverse through deep crisscrossing ruts. What had started the book as a novel reading experience could no longer sustain my interest. I did finish the book but failed to understand how it has garnered so much praise, although I must admit it is unique in its excessively unprincipled weirdness.
There are two levels of satire--the easy, Saturday Night Live type that pokes fun at easy figures like fatuous politicians and hypocritical ministers and then the scathing, down-deep kind that goes after everyone. This book goes after everyone, which is the source of its humor as well as its chief weakness. Jews, cops, lesbians, gay men,widows, bimbos, suburbanites, and so on and so on behave just like their worst stereotypes. If you think this is funny, read the book. If you think this is offensive, leave the book alone. If you stay for the book, you'll be treated to a rollicking, picaresque plot and encounter in Ignatius one of American literature's true originals. For what it is, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES is first rate.
John Kennedy Toole demonstrates a touch of genius in this indescribable satire, a genius that never got a chance to flower, as he was already dead when this book was published. His social commentary, although almost always hilarious, carries an undercurrent of despair. The multiple sub-plots and the incredible cast of characters give this novel such a rich and layered texture that a re-reading (or two or three) is almost a must. Truly one of the most unique books I've ever read.
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