Appropriately enough, Goodreads ate my first review for Confederacy of Dunces. (Or else, I have sunk so low into the depths of medically-induced coma from various attempts to cure my Sinus Infection from Hell that I have, myself, misplaced what I wrote up a bit earlier.) If the first review comes back from Limbo, it would be just the little dose of farce and failure that should accompany John Kennedy Toole's delicious prank.
As I said (to the great void) earlier...I did not really expect to enjoy this book. I would never have selected this title on my own. So, I am greatly appreciative that my book group picked it up. My own entree into 2011 has been marked by stress, family illness, weather that is horrid-even-by-Cleveland standards and other elements that can drag even a committed jackass like myself down into despondency. I needed a good laugh.
And lord did this book deliver on that score! Rarely have I encountered the book that makes me...constantly...have to put it down in order to wipe the tears (of laughter) from my eyes. Confederacy of Dunces is a heaping platter of farce; served with the delectable sides of insanity, black humor, and caricature-characters delineated so sharply that you can almost cut your fingers turning the pages. I laughed, I stifled, I regaled my spouse with each day's reading adventure, I felt everything!
Believe it people: literary characters do not have to be admirable...smart...attractive...intuitive...brave...or sensitive to be enjoyed. Oh, bring on the grotesque, the pathetic, the degenerate. We live with these people every day of our lives anyway. Why not occasionally bring them to a hysterical technicolor on the written page where we can wallow among them at arm's length?
Ignatius J. Reilly is really one of the most odious fictional characters I have ever encountered. He is the whacko train wreck at the center of the action. A constellation of slightly lesser lights orbit around him. Reilly's psychosis, paranoia, indolence and vitriol spur him randomly and mostly unwittingly into an ever spiralling series of encounters with these other characters and the ensuing events are almost indescribable.
The great strength of the book is that the author could create a cast of disparate and damaged souls and fling them into crazy tangents...that eventually meet seamlessly and tie the entire Series of Unfortunate Events into something cohesive. John Kennedy Toole was a gifted writer.
Yes, Confederacy of Dunces is also a tragedy. The author killed himself because he could not get the book published. Perhaps there was more than a little of Ignatius J. Reilly (that misunderstood self -proclaimed genius) in John Kennedy Toole. And Confederacy of Dunces does shine a spotlight on the frailties of our species...the pettiness, the violence, the selfishness and the cluelessness. Although he was satirizing the denizens of his own home town, New Orleans, and his era (the 1960s), Toole could easily add many 'characters' from our new warped century to his skewer. I only wish that he was still around to do it.