Austin's Reviews > A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
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Mar 07, 08

Recommended to Austin by: Cheryl Albrecht
Recommended for: People Who Enjoy Reading

I'll be honest: A Confederacy Of Dunces probably didn't deserve a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

There, I said it.

BUT, this does not mean that you shouldn't read it, nor does that mean that it isn't as good as advertised, or that this is because of any deficiency in Toole's writing. This book is funny; probably funnier than most anything else you can find written by a dead Southern Writer who was never popular during his own lifetime.

For those who have never read it, there is no apt description that could ever give someone an idea of what reading it is like, and while the entire novel has an extremely cinematic feeling to the story (I'm specifically thinking of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), one is very quickly aware of the fact that, like so many good things in life, a movie version would reduce what is great about it to quips and nonsense.

The book is flawed, but it is flawed in a beautiful way that makes the author seem human, and the story something that could have come out of your own life if you would just sit down and write it. (I went to High School with a person exactly like Ignatius J. Reilly, right down the fact that he had a mother almost exactly like Irene.) While the story culminates in a Mad Mad Mad Mad World sense of finality in the penultimate chapter, the actual ending feels somewhat tacked on, and left me wishing I had stopped reading before I get there.

However, this should not stop you from reading it. The fact that it is not perfect endears you to it in a way that is well worth the investment. When Ignatius tries to organize a workers revolution to impress his old College Ex, you feel the same kind of sting that occurs only when making a stupid mistake for a partner. When he takes to wearing his pirate costume all the time - almost pathologically, and without any real reason given - it's like a constant reminder of all the strange OCD-esque habits you begin to develop that have no rhyme or reason to it either.

Ignatius is a fat, imperfect blotch on the skin of humanity, and if we look at him too closely, we can see the cracks in the surface as the artifice of the novel becomes all too apparent. Still, it is an incredible book, extremely funny, and if nothing else, a perfect character study of the kind of stupidly smart or intelligently dumb people that make up the bulk of our public interactions when things are just not going our way.
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Olga What a great, compassionate review. Thank you.


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