Dan's Reviews > A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
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's review
Jan 23, 2012

really liked it

Having overheard many disparaging, pretentious, and overtly dismissive critiques of this book for some time, I finally resolved to give John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize winning novel its due...

Ignatius J. Reilly's exploits are intended to please a particular cross-section of the reading community. Geeky English majors, take note: you'll see frequent allusions to Boethius, Chaucer, Swift, Foucault, Conrad, etc. In addition to a litany of disparaging remarks made about Mark Twain, you'll get an abundance of insane internal dialogue. Sound good? Keep reading...

Non English-major types, proceed at your own risk. Don't get me wrong; this ain't a "New Yorker" cartoon, in fact, far from it. The seedy low-brow antics of the characters will likely entertain you with their face value alone. Then again, with a merely topical or superficial reading, you may just heave the book out of your window in frustrated disgust.

Toole develops rich, multi-dimensional characters and scenery to the extent that the tea-leaf rankness of Ignatius' befouled bedchamber, Jones' nimbus clouds of cigarette smoke and dust, and the atrociously watered-down drinks at the "Night of Joy" become material. There is some originality here that begs for a second or third reading.

"Confederacy" entertains the senses while moving rapidly through a network of easy-to-follow narratives (which is impressive, considering the number of them included in the book). While indirectly commenting on the relative nature of madness (see "Madness and Civilization" by Foucault), the middle class' absurdities, minority rights, homosexuality, politics, worker rights, psychoanalysis, and a variety of entertaining blue-collar New Orleans psychoses, Toole ably paints a portrait of Ignatius' ill-defined agendas, comical verbosity, and his socially inept masturbatory lifestyle. Throughout the book, the aging grandiosity, stickiness, and creole gumbo existence that is the French Quarter is explored in depth. I dig it.

Many readers will be outright annoyed by Ignatius. The rest of us will find levity in Toole's immense hyperbole.
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