A Confederacy of Dunces: Book Review by Tina
A Confederacy of Dunces Review
Ignatius J Reilly. Morbidly obese, slovenly, flatulent, more often than not extremely rude, yet highly educated and articulate, and at constant battle with modern society, its myriad perversions and the people living in it who dare commit “egregious offenses against taste and decency”.
This 30-year-old behemoth lives with his long-suffering mother Irene on Constantinople St, in 1960s New Orleans, unemployed and surviving on Irene’s welfare checks. Which suits him fine as he spends most of his days stuffing himself with cakes washed down with Dr Nut, while writing vectives and essays about his worldview and the disintegration of society.
But things take a turn when Irene plows their 1946 Plymouth into a building and has to raise the money to pay for damages. Ignatius is unceremoniously thrown into the society he loathes so much to find a job and that’s when things spiral downwards.
Whether it’s trying to orchestrate an uprising among the factory workers at Levy Pants or selling Paradise hot-dogs in the salubrious French quarter dressed as a pirate, Ignatius journals his working life and his efforts to make his mark in the world. Many of these schemes don’t come to fruition, much to Ignatius’ exasperation and his mother’s increasingly frayed nerves, until a picture of a naked female philosopher leads Ignatius to believe he has found his intellectual equal and he plots to save her from the grips of her “commercial exploiters” at the not too joyous Night of Joy bar….
A Confederacy of Dunces Recommendation
Don’t you hate that feeling of disappointment and irritation when you go watch a movie adaptation of a book you’ve read and loved and the filmmakers just kill it for you? With John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, I feel that the author has already made it easy for the scriptwriters to produce what could be one of the best comedies of our time.
This book is considered a great classic in American literature and quite rightly too. Every page reads like a comedy movie script, dense with colorful description and dialogue, and I could see the scenes and characters playing out vividly in my mind as I went through the book.
While some stories are known for their great evocative imagery of a time or landscape, Confederacy is a fantastic work of characterization and a testament to Toole’s facility with the English language, barbed wit and his intellect (he was a high achieving academic at school and at 22, became the youngest professor at Hunter College in New York).
Ignatius is one of the most unique literary characters I have come across and as loathsome as he can be at times, his life is like a slow-motion car crash that you cannot tear your eyes away from and like most anti-heroes, you are still hoping that he comes out alright in the end.
All the other characters in the book – his mother Irene who teeters from hopeless resignation to melodramatic grief over her callous son, to Patrolman Mancuso, who has to suffer his sergeant’s bullying by wearing increasingly absurd costumes while on the beat, and the mercenary proprietress of Night of Joy, Lana Lee – add color to the hilarity of the plot as it unfolds and to the kaleidoscopic landscape that Toole paints of New Orleans in the 1960s.
While I wouldn’t say Confederacy is “heavy-reading”, it is definitely a meaty read – one that you can go back to again and again to pick out more deliciously funny morsels that you may have missed out the first time. All this, however, is tinged with a little sadness knowing that Toole would never know how much enjoyment his work is bringing, as he committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31 from depression.
So, with the book having been published in 1980, did they ever make a movie of the book? Apparently there have been efforts to do so for the last 30 years with several of comedy’s big names – think John Goodman, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis – as being potential candidates to play Ignatius. But these projects have said to been plagued with problems and never got off the ground. Perhaps it’s best. I wouldn’t want to be disappointed yet again.
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