On the Southern Literary Trail discussion

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A Confederacy of Dunces > Lovers vs Haters and all in-between




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message 42: by Franky (last edited Apr 05, 2012 12:33PM) (new)

Franky | 134 comments A little bit late on the discussion. Finished CofD and I'm more in the not liking the book category. Not to say that I didn't get a few chuckles here and there (I found Ignatious' journals and letters, especially the correspondences to Myrna quite humorous). I also liked the descriptions and feel of New Orleans in the book. Mostly, though, everything was too over the top (the characters, situations, etc). I realize that that is the point, but somehow it seemed more like a sitcom than a book, things too far-fetched. Not to mention, the level of whining/nagging/yelling in the various subplots (Ignatius/his mother, the Levys, Jones/the bar owner, etc) got on my nerves. Too obnoxious for me.

Still, I can see why it is revered as a farce/satire to some. Just didn't work for me. Pity that Toole didn't get to see his work published.


Larry Bassett | 367 comments Kathy wrote: "I think people are much more apt to talk to strangers in the South, also."

This is certainly true in my little town of 75,000. And it's quite nice when I manage to give it a chance to work!


Kathy | 156 comments Oh, I definitely think there is. The slower may not apply to driving, but definitely to the walking and the talking. I think people are much more apt to talk to strangers in the South, also. When I go to big cities outside the South, I have to remind myself that cheerily saying hi to strangers is not a good plan.


Larry Bassett | 367 comments Mike wrote: "As we have become a more homogeneous society, I'm curious to know whether a Southern Modus Operandi exists anymore ..."

I wonder the same thing. But Everitt's comment about "slower" seems to be part of the description of an MO to me. But maybe it just isn't really true. People running red lights in my central VA town sure aren't slowed down.


message 38: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "Everitt wrote: "One of the first things people tend to notice about the South is that people walk and talk slower down here. Patience is a virtue."

I have lived in NY and now I live in VA so I kno..."


Larry, we have folks from all over the States, Germany, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, just to name a few. No, being a Southerner is not a requirement for participation. Just an interest in Southern literature. As we have become a more homogeneous society, I'm curious to know whether a Southern Modus Operandi exists anymore, although I have had the experience during my travels of being given the look, complete with raised eyebrow, that I am less than civilized when I announce I'm from Alabama. I suppose the image of George Wallace standing in the door of Foster Auditorium in the face of the National Guard is something hard to live down. I was, let's see, around 9 or 10 at the time. So I do not find myself ridden with the "burden of Southern history." So it goes.

Lawyer Stevens


Larry Bassett | 367 comments Everitt wrote: "One of the first things people tend to notice about the South is that people walk and talk slower down here. Patience is a virtue."

I have lived in NY and now I live in VA so I know the differences of speed and intensity. After 8 yrs in VA, I am still more from NY in spite of the drugs I take that are supposed to slow me down. The elevator in my building is very Virginia: slow.

I hope that at some point there might be some demographics of this group. It seems like people are from a lot of places - even other countries - so I wouldn't expect that one of the requirements of membership would be to assume a southern MO. (That's modus operandi, not Missouri.)


Tajma Everitt wrote: "Larry wrote: "Oh, being patient is not one of my strengths but I will continue to try to be. (I thought waiting until the 19th was being pretty patient!) *same shy smile* "

One of the first things..."


Doing away with smelly banknotes?? You sound like Ignatius, Everitt! HA!!!


message 35: by Everitt (last edited Mar 19, 2012 11:15AM) (new)

Everitt | 490 comments Larry wrote: "Oh, being patient is not one of my strengths but I will continue to try to be. (I thought waiting until the 19th was being pretty patient!) *same shy smile* "

One of the first things people tend to notice about the South is that people walk and talk slower down here. Patience is a virtue. "The world isn't going anywhere, tomorrow it will still be here." I've heard more than a few times.

I do think you for reminding me though, that I needed to post some of my thoughts on Ignatius. Do read it and throw in your two cents. Actually, make it a couple of Ducats. Maintaining proper standards of theology and geometry would require doing away with smelly banknotes!


Jeffrey Keeten (jkeeten) | 45 comments Dulac3 wrote: "Jeffrey, I'm not sure if I didn;t believe in the characters as much as I just didn't care about them. None of them was someone I wanted to spend more time with I guess."

No I wasn't thinking about you. I perfectly understand your reasoning for not wanting to spend more time with these characters. I was actually referring to other references to CofD. There are people who invalidate the novel based on the thinking that these people could not possibly exist. I wanted to offer assurances that people like Ignatius do exist.


Larry Bassett | 367 comments Mike wrote: "Feel free to exercise your discretion in the topics you choose to read, but please do not indicate that things of no interest to you should also not be of interest to other members of the group."

I did not mean to suggest that these things should not be of interest to others and I did not suggest they were of no interest to me. I just observed that they had little direct involvement with CofD. And it is limited discussion of CofD that my post focused on.

Now I will go back and read what I wrote and be more careful with my words the next time I comment! *shy smile*

Glad to see that there is now a space for non-spoiler-free discussion. I must be in the minority thinking that it is not necessary to finish a book to offer some discussion. But this is my first book discussion group on GR, so I am not at all experienced with these things.

Oh, being patient is not one of my strengths but I will continue to try to be. (I thought waiting until the 19th was being pretty patient!) *same shy smile*


Kathy | 156 comments Larry wrote: "I am confused about what seems to me to be a very limited amount of discussion about CofD. I look under the CofD topic on the home page and see less than 100 posts (85 by my count a minute ago) and..."

Hey Larry,
I just put up a topic for those who are finished to discuss CofD. I would love to hear your thoughts. The topic is easily recognizable, it is the one with the unweildy title (not my strong suit, apparently). Hopefully, as folks finish, we will have a lively discussion.
~kathy


message 31: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (last edited Mar 19, 2012 10:17AM) (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "I am confused about what seems to me to be a very limited amount of discussion about CofD. I look under the CofD topic on the home page and see less than 100 posts (85 by my count a minute ago) and..."

At one point I recall your concern of polite southerners not being open in their discussion. It is March 19th. The group read does not conclude until the end of the month. Neither you nor I have any idea how many other readers will contribute to this post. Be patient. Some readers may well not wish to "spoil" the read for others by posting as of yet. If you have been following this thread, Jeffrey and I have posted our reviews of this novel. They are available for your review.

Regarding your comments concerning authors, cookbooks, and events, this is a site devoted not only to an individual book but Southern Literature in general. Book festivals devoted to Southern literature are certainly not an irrelevant subject to this group.

As to recipes and cookbooks, food is definitely a part of Southern culture. It covers a myriad of cuisines unique to their regional origins. Each member of this group has the choice to read or not read any discussion topic. Feel free to exercise your discretion in the topics you choose to read, but please do not indicate that things of no interest to you should also not be of interest to other members of the group.

Now, as to concern of "a very limited amount of discussionn about CofD," what is your opinion?

Lawyer Stevens


Larry Bassett | 367 comments Jeffrey wrote: "Maybe it stretches belief that this many unconventional people would show up in the same novel, but I have also discovered that crazy people find crazy people."

I think that is exactly the issue for me but I do have to remind myself that this is fiction! Also some places are more tolerant of strange people and NOLA seems likely to be one of those places, especially in certain areas of the city. I have to get out of the habit of viewing the whole world based on the very few people I actually know. Reading takes you into those worlds that you don't normally inhabit.

If not for this group, I think the chances of my ever spending time in Ignatius' world would be pretty close to zero. Also, I think the phrase "truth is stranger than fiction" fits in here somewhere although I am not certain where!


Larry Bassett | 367 comments I am confused about what seems to me to be a very limited amount of discussion about CofD. I look under the CofD topic on the home page and see less than 100 posts (85 by my count a minute ago) and 120 views. The rest of the site is about cookbooks, events, other authors and things not directly related to CofD. (Some very interesting discussion about what is Southern Lit, I think. Although I think it is clear the CofD is SoLit, I don't recall any discussion about the factors that make that obvious. As an outsider, latecomer to the South, I would love to read what someone grounded in SoLit thinks.) I guess most members joined after the selection of the March read so maybe only a relatively few of the 200+ are actually reading this book. It is likely that a lot of us are waiting to hear what the others think before jumping in, but the month is about 2/3 gone.

I am sorry if this seems a bit negative but I would just hate to see the month end with me still wondering what more people thought about our Book of the Month.


Terry  (Dulac3) | 5 comments Jeffrey, I'm not sure if I didn;t believe in the characters as much as I just didn't care about them. None of them was someone I wanted to spend more time with I guess.


Jeffrey Keeten (jkeeten) | 45 comments It is so interesting for me to keep reading that people find the characters in CofD unbelievable (not so much on this group). The most bizarre characteristics that you can subscribe to a human being I guarantee you that there is someone out there that fits it to a T. For me the characters of CofD are far too real. I've met several people in Southwest Kansas alone that exhibit behavior equally as baffling as Ignatius(though not as diabolically intelligent/stupid). Maybe it stretches belief that this many unconventional people would show up in the same novel, but I have also discovered that crazy people find crazy people.

Yes, this book is a comedy and good comedy can stretched the bounds of what most people experience, but generally for it to work it has to be based on a nugget of truth. I found Ignatius annoying, in need of a good shake, but I never thought to myself this person could not possibly exist.


Terry  (Dulac3) | 5 comments Sorry, I'm giving up. I've almost made it 50% through, but count me in with those that appaarently just doesn't get it.


Larry Bassett | 367 comments I spent the afternoon with author John Kennedy Toole today as I finished A Confederacy of Dunces. I didn’t plan to finish the book today but at the conclusion I could not put it down. It was more important for me to finish the book than to do a number of other things. This afternoon it was definitely a four star book.

Earlier this week I probably would have gone with two stars. I did not initially like any of the characters as they were introduced. They seemed too unlikely, each and every one. I saw the book as slapstick humor with pratfalls and I didn’t much like it.

People who know New Orleans have said regularly that they are real NO people. Sorry, I just didn’t find that believable without some additional evidence. I am a doubting Thomas.

Now that I have finished the book, pushed on by the online group discussion, I think there are a few real psychiatric cases alive and well on these pages. Ignatius needs some serious professional help. He frenetically avoids forced hospitalization in the last pages. But he drives off to a new life forgetting that he is still the same person he was before he and Myrna pull away in the Renault with all his hopes and fears. Every one of them comes along in the back seat with him.

People who live in poverty have chaotic lives that you probably cannot even imagine. They live in this book and many others. That’s one reason why you read books: to go to some places that you would not otherwise know and certainly would not experience.

This is not a they-lived-happily-ever-after book. The author, J.K. Toole died of suicide far too young. As a closeted gay in the era before gays came out, let alone had gay pride, Toole exposes himself with his words. I take this novel to be very autobiographical; he lived this life. Unlikely we might guess, but unmanageable we know for sure.

This books takes me into my own long psychiatric life. New Orleans might be a place where you can get away with being a little abnormal even when it is not Marti Gras season. And that I am not abnormal by New York City standards, it certainly would be easy for me to be abnormal tomorrow in Lynchburg, Virginia. Been there, done that.

I am going to give A Confederacy of Dunces four stars because I want to respect where the book took me more than where I started.


Tajma As much as I absolutely love this novel, I completely understand the people who despise it. Out of all the books I have read in my lifetime, I have never recommended this one to anyone else, as there are so many ways for it to go wrong.


message 23: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "I also found the read very different than I remember from the Reagan years. My review is here:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/..."


Daniel let me join Kathy in complimenting you on a fine review. You'll find my remarks as a comment at your review location. It is a fine piece of analysis. I, too, felt some discomfort regarding Ignatius' treatment of Dorian and his friends. However, I take heart at how Dorian and his comrades shrugged off Ignatius' unfortunate use of language, considered him a bore and gave him the brush off. Similarly, I don't find Burma to be a stereotype. He is rather triumphant, a rarity to a great deal in his time who refused to submit to prejudice and ultimately triumphs over charges of vagrancy and gets Lana Lane the justice she deserves. It is interesting that Richard Pryor was considered as the first pick to portray Burma Jones. He could have carried it off with aplomb and assurance. And when I read Confederacy, I had a constant picture of Pryor's irreverent wit throughout each scene containing Burma. He IS my favorite character in the entire novel.

Again, a fine review.

Lawyer Stevens


message 22: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "Message 14: Mike wrote: "I'm not a stickler for staying on topic."
Message 15: Marlene said: "I know. But it's still annoying when the other group members reappear and have to work through a load ..."


Larry, I take your comment in the friendly nature it is intended. However, when a young student asks a question, I'm not going to become rigid and tell her she's off topic. While this is a serious group regarding Southern lit, I want people to feel this as congenial a spot for talking as they wish. There is no set curriculum here, nor any required reading. I'll be the first to say, I tend to be a story teller. I'm not likely to change in that regard. But I will certainly be mindful of your comment. It's a pleasure to have you here and I hope you continue to enjoy the group.

Lawyer Stevens


Kathy | 156 comments Great review, Daniel! I am less than a quarter of the way through this reread and am enjoying again, but I am struggling with some of the racist language. Remembering myself at 20-something, I imagine I had the same issues then. I tend to skip over the slurs and not actually read them, but they are definitely jumping out.


Larry Bassett | 367 comments Message 14: Mike wrote: "I'm not a stickler for staying on topic."
Message 15: Marlene said: "I know. But it's still annoying when the other group members reappear and have to work through a load of messages not concerning the topic."

When I was a young Sunday School attender, I had a teacher who told WWII stories for most of the class. I loved it but, in retrospect, I wonder if it was the best use of Sunday School time.

Like Marlene, I mean this as a friendly comment.


Daniel I also found the read very different than I remember from the Reagan years. My review is here:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 18: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Kelli,
Don't worry about your first comment being negative, the fun is in us all having different opinions. That said, Confederacy seems to be a Three Stooges sort of thing - you hate it or you lov..."


Absolutely.


Kathy | 156 comments Kelli,
Don't worry about your first comment being negative, the fun is in us all having different opinions. That said, Confederacy seems to be a Three Stooges sort of thing - you hate it or you love it, no in-between.


message 16: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Kelli wrote: "I hate for my first official post to be a negative one but I did not like this book which I actually read at the end of last year and did not re-read for this group read.

I started this unabridg..."


Kelli, what a great comment regarding Toole's book. I think you're close on target regarding its Pulitzer status. I've been looking at Ken and Thelma: The Story of a Confederacy of Dunces as a possible read. There is also a book scheduled for release later this month concerning the story of how Confederacy came to be published. The title escapes me at the moment. That Walker Percy threw his influence behind the book's publication certainly didn't hurt its chances upon publication. I give Confederacy the high rating for its depiction of the city as character and the unique portrayal of the characters that Ignatius encounters. He's not a lovable fellow. I wouldn't be concerned about your first comment being negative. I completely agree with most of what you said. Write on!

Lawyer Stevens


Marlene (Marlene1001) | 51 comments I know. But it's still annoying when the other group members reappear and have to work through a load of messages not concerning the topic.
I'm some of those people, who gets sidetracked easily too. I proved that in the "Literary Exploration" group. Knowledge Lost had to create the "Random"-thread to solve that problem... *wink*


message 14: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Marlene wrote: "I usually stick to my own recommendations (when it comes to teachers, at least), but I stumble acrooss much - especially since I'm a Goodreads-member. Whenever I discover something interesting at a..."

Hey, being Moderator has its perks. I'm not a stickler for staying on topic. *chuckle*


Kelli Robinson (kellifrobinson) I hate for my first official post to be a negative one but I did not like this book which I actually read at the end of last year and did not re-read for this group read.

I started this unabridged audiobook on my 24-hour roundtrip drive to my parent's house (Alabama to Texas) for Thanksgiving last year. I was looking specifically for a humorous novel and selected this one from the Good Reads listopia for Best Humorous Books. I was intrigued by the author's tragic story, the setting of New Orleans and the fact that the book was first published in 1980 by LSU Press (my alma mater). The first 1/3 of the book was laugh out loud funny but as the story progressed, the humor grew stale. As the book came to an end, I wondered whether its Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was a bit misplaced or was based, instead, on the incredible story surrounding the book instead of the book itself. I do, however, agree that the depiction of New Orleans was outstanding and the city truly served as a character in the story itself.


Marlene (Marlene1001) | 51 comments I usually stick to my own recommendations (when it comes to teachers, at least), but I stumble acrooss much - especially since I'm a Goodreads-member. Whenever I discover something interesting at a bookstore, I have to go check it out on the inernet anyway, because I'm trying to read the books in their original language. Many books are originally from the USA, so I can't buy them in Germany in the first place.

...we better get back on topic. ^^


message 11: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Marlene wrote: "I've got the first four... whatever they are, volumes maybe. And as I already heard about The Book of Merlyn and it's on my to-read list, I'll spare you the bop on the head.
I read som..."


You are simply amazing. You go about reading in the same fashion as I always have. I always "know" about what I choose to read. It's always nice to discover something by chance, but reading reviews, comparing books with others, teachers' recommendations have always been the best sources for me. And when it comes to teachers' recs, I'm talking about teachers who recommend books that are not required reading. A rigid curriculum has killed many a student's desire to read anything at all.

Atticus


Marlene (Marlene1001) | 51 comments I've got the first four... whatever they are, volumes maybe. And as I already heard about The Book of Merlyn and it's on my to-read list, I'll spare you the bop on the head.
I read somewhere that they are getting darker too. Usually I know far too much about books I haven't read yet. Whenever somebody mentions a book, I can give acurate information and when they ask if I've read it... well.


message 9: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Marlene wrote: "Hey! That's what I'm going to read next! The Once and Future King is already standing on my shelf. I just wanted to finish our group read first, which will be very soon. I started yest..."

Excellent choice! And did you know there's a fourth book that concludes "The Once and Future King?" It's
The Book of Merlyn. What began as a trilogy was meant to be concluded with the final book. It was set for publication during the Second World War. The publishers decided it was far too dark and would be bad for the morale of Great Britain. The manuscript languished in White's desk. It was ultimately discovered after White's death and was published by the University of Texas Press. I highly recommend it, because it does truly conclude the story of Arthur. And dark it is, indeed. It is far, far deeper than the first volume, The Sword in the Stone when young Arthur, "Wart" is being taught by Merlin before he becomes King. At the risk of your giving me a good bop on the head, you've got another for your read stack. *grin*

Atticus
Lawyer Stevens who's not so proud to say he's the only lawyer in town *smile*


message 8: by Marlene (last edited Mar 14, 2012 09:03AM) (new)

Marlene (Marlene1001) | 51 comments Hey! That's what I'm going to read next! The Once and Future King is already standing on my shelf. I just wanted to finish our group read first, which will be very soon. I started yesterday and am halfway through. And I've got a little time today.
Oh, and I finished Light in August. I said I was going to write you a message how I found it, so that's what I'm going to do later this day. Just a warning.
My teacher is already used to me reading during his lessons. He knows I'm just reading whenever I've finished whatever task he gave me. Well, what can he do? At least I'm reading english books!


message 7: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Marlene wrote: "Ignatius is the most self-centered, egoistic, lazy and disgusting protagonist I've ever encountered. There is absolutely nothing about him I could love - but whatever he does ends in disaster and u..."

Hmmmm, I always suspected you were an under the table school reader. That's why I dubbed you "Scout." I was caught with T.H. White's
The Once and Future King. Fortunately, the teacher was a lover of all things Arthurian. Blessed relief.

Lawyer Stevens


message 6: by Marlene (last edited Mar 14, 2012 08:36AM) (new)

Marlene (Marlene1001) | 51 comments Ignatius is the most self-centered, egoistic, lazy and disgusting protagonist I've ever encountered. There is absolutely nothing about him I could love - but whatever he does ends in disaster and unbearably funny situations.
So again, an Ignatius-hater but Book-lover. I read it in a course at school under the table. Big mistake...


message 5: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "51 year old woman here. I first read this when it won the Pulitzer and loved it. I just started it again at lunch today (the service was dreadful, so I got a good run at it) and was laughing away a..."

51? 51??? Nope. Not buyin' it. Forever young in my book, Ms. Connolly. A mere sprite of a Colleen. *grin*

Mikey Boy
Lawyer Stevens


Kathy | 156 comments 51 year old woman here. I first read this when it won the Pulitzer and loved it. I just started it again at lunch today (the service was dreadful, so I got a good run at it) and was laughing away as I read.

That said, I do not like Ignatius as a person. He's awful, but man, he and everything around him touches me. Having lived in New Orleans, I sometimes get frustrated with the cliched take on it in some novels, but this book gets it dead on. So, I fall in the don't love Ignatius, but love, love, love the book group.

PS. Glad this is making me give it another look. I was a totally different person when I read it the first time.


message 3: by Mike, "Lawyer Stevens" (new)

Mike (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 1924 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I did not like this book when I read it upon initial publication, so gave it another read for this group. I still can't stand it. The trouble for me is Ignatious. He is a vile character with no ..."

Male here, pushing 60. First read almost 25 years ago. Rated it 5 stars then, and did so again. Pushing past Ignatius' personality is the key to being able to appreciate the novel. Still crazy after all these years, I rated it 5 stars again. The surrounding characters save the novel. The depiction of New Orleans saves the novel. And, I don't view it as a totally comedic novel. It's a tragi-comedy to me. Ignatius didn't just spring forth full blown. His childhood and the skills of his parents had a bearing on his personality, too. My review is available at: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31...

Everitt, I believe commented that women did not appreciate the novel to the same degree as women. It'll be interesting to see how our readers report in, gender and age wise. I understand your feelings completely and respect your opinion.

Lawyer Stevens


Naftoli I think Ignatious is hilarious. The writing reminds me of Henry James' short works ... I have a friend (male) who hates Henry James comments which I really think is the same style this book is written in. But for some reason, it makes me roll over in laughter. One commentary on this book calls it "cranky" but I think it's a roaring laugh and demonstrates the author's level of human observation (every visual and mental aspect of Ignatious is noted, the author must be a people watcher). Anyroad, I did enjoy reading your comment thought we approach the book differently. Thank you for posting.


message 1: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 692 comments Mod
I did not like this book when I read it upon initial publication, so gave it another read for this group. I still can't stand it. The trouble for me is Ignatious. He is a vile character with no redeeming qualities, and that colors everything else in the novel for me. Yes, there is magnificent dialogue, wonderful New Orleans atmosphere, an incredible cast of supporting characters (I especially loved Jones, Mancuso and the mother), but I have to wade through Ignatious' insane ramblings to get to them. I have taken a poll at the bookstore where I work, and all the lovers of this book are male. None of the women I questioned liked it, and for much the same reason as me. What about the readers in this group? The ages of the people I polled were all over the map, so I don't think that played into their answers. There were only a couple of "It was alright", most responders were either very enthusiastic in their appreciation of it, or overly caustic in their expressions of dislike. It would be interesting to know how members of the SLT group break down, and why. Identification with the protagonist of a book is important to me, and I just could not abide Ignatious Reilly.


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