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A Confederacy of Dunces
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A Confederacy of Dunces_Mar 2012 > First Impressions (please mark your spoilers)

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Tajma I think the novel is dark but incredibly funny nonetheless. I do have trouble with the the dialect, as it is quite different from other dialects even in the deep south. Actually, it has been the dialogue that has kept me from rereading the novel until now. I'm looking forward to deciphering a little better this time around.


Marlene (marlene1001) So the first time we choose a book, we choose one that wil be difficult for me. Oh well, that's what I'm here for. I'm reading it for the first time too and will start soon. Presumably this weekend.


message 3: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
My thanks to Everitt for beginning this topic. It is a fascinating one--in more ways than one.

For me, this is a second read. I approach it with many more years of life experience than when I first read it. I initially thought I had read it approximately thirty years ago, shortly after its publication.

But it has been almost twenty-five years to the day that I first read "Confederacy." My copy is my original copy, the 1987 Evergreen edition, published by arrangement with the LSU press. It is worn, and actually tattered which is quite unusual for me. Usually it is almost impossible to tell that i've read one of my books, I'm so careful with them.

I am undecided as to whether I merely read the book into its present condition out of my enthusiasm over the read or whether I may have thrown it against the wall several times over my frustration at Ignatius and the way he separated himself from the wonderful world of people who live in New Orleans through his own skewed philosophy and the isolation in which he kept himself, railing against anyone and every thing.

Tajma's instincts are directly on point. There are definitely dark aspects to the humor in this book. Is it a comedy? Oh, yes. It is one of the great comic novels of modern times, and whether Toole intended it, I wonder if he knew he was following one of the great aspects of Southern literature, that being humor.

Oh, yes. There are moments I laugh out loud while reading "Confederacy." But I find myself laughing not at Ignatius, but the myriad of comic characters that surround him. Jones, the outspoken "vagran" essentially an indentured servant at The Night of Joy makes me absolutely howl.

I find "Confederacy" not merely a comic novel, but a tragi-comedy, with Ignatius and his relationship with his mother providing the tragi-comic elements in this novel.

Some of you know my mother died on February 1, of this year, following a very long and difficult illness. During that time, being her only child, I was her caregiver. My wife and I moved into her home during that time. I put aside my career as a lawyer, while my wife, Martha Jo, soldiered on, as the manager of a Soma Intimates store. While she worked, I watched my mother die by inches, by the minutes.

So it should come as no surprise that "Confederacy" is is a difficult novel for me to read at this time. I key in on the relationship between Ignatius and Irene, his mother. I want to shake him, which i was not wont to do when I first read the novel.

I have spent much more time in New Orleans since I first read "Confederacy." As I re-read the novel, I am now aware at how well Toole captured the ebb and flow of life in New Orleans, its unique districts, the incredibly diverse population, reflecting all the ethnicities who have inhabited this unique blend of French, Spanish, English colonization and those they brought with them, often unwillingly. I have walked almost every street and alley in a city that can be a dangerous place if you don't watch where you are and who is around you. I recognize the dialect so accurately reproduced in the novel. I've sat in the French Market and listened to that distinct "Yat" which is tinged with a strange but lyrical patois. At times you wonder if you're in the Bronx or Brooklyn. At others you wonder if you're in the Antilles. You hear it all.

First impressions? Toole created a living, breathing world, with living breathing people, with faults, flaws, and those moments which endear them to us. It still lives and breathes with the same magic that first possessed me. But now, I also recognize the sadness that tinges the pages of the novel. I am very conscious of the possibility of loss and the real need to seize the day, minute by minute. We truly only go around this world but once.

"Lawyer Stevens"


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Diane Barnes | 3972 comments Mod
I haven't started Confederacy yet, but I have a library copy to hand, and this will be my 2nd read. I first read this book upon it's initial publication and did not like it very much. I didn't "get" the humor, and considered Ignatious an unfeeling idiot. Since then I have acquired some maturity, have read hundreds of books, and have visited (and loved) New Orleans. I am eager to see how this reading will impress me


Tajma Mike wrote: "My thanks to Everitt for beginning this topic. It is a fascinating one--in more ways than one.

For me, this is a second read. I approach it with many more years of life experience than when I fi..."


Excellent, excellent post, Mike. My sincere condolences on the loss of your mother.

I find it amazing as I start the novel for the second time that I am as transfixed as I was the first time. I was living in NYC when I read it and more than a few times I burst out laughing as I rode the subway. Never, ever has that happened with anything I've read. These characters leap off the pages.


message 6: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I think I've read this twice before. The first time not long after its publication. I was young and relatively unschooled. I remember it was very funny and how Toole had all kinds of people stereotyped but then they mostly seem to step up out of the stereotypes so that you can see where the stereotype comes from but it doesn't hurt the writing or the characters themselves. Well, except maybe the women, Darlene and Lana especially.

Oddly, my copy is also beat to heck, nearly torn in half so that I am reading it in sections. This was done by a very dear friend who borrowed my book. At least she gave it back...


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Tajma wrote: "Mike wrote: "My thanks to Everitt for beginning this topic. It is a fascinating one--in more ways than one.

For me, this is a second read. I approach it with many more years of life experience t..."


Many thanks, Tajma, for you comments and condolences. Every work has its own effect on the individual reader. It is human nature that each of us finds those things that relate to us on a personal level. I find myself laughing at things the second go around I didn't find the humor in the first time. It is only natural. Each book speaks to each of us on its own basis. Authors, the good ones, seem to instinctively know this--that a work will mean as many different things as there are different readers. To me, it is the true power of literature to speak to us in a language we interpret in the context of our own worlds. Those critics and academicians who ram a particular meaning intended by an author do more to damage to the desire of any person to ever pick up a book. Don't get me wrong, that there are obvious things about a particular work that strike us as universal human experience are always there. For authors are no more human than any reader. We share life experiences and there are only so many variations on life as we know it. The author who lives in a bubble, essentially creating a work that only he can understand has only performed a useless act. I have known writers who prided themselves on the obtuseness of their works, believing that their sublime work should be a monument to their own intelligence in what amounts to pure elitism and a willful exclusion of readers whom they consider beneath their own impenetrable prose. For those authors, I consider their efforts tripe and fit for the garbage bin. Well, there I go, once again beating around the bush. My, my, my.


Tajma Mike wrote: "Tajma wrote: "Mike wrote: "My thanks to Everitt for beginning this topic. It is a fascinating one--in more ways than one.

For me, this is a second read. I approach it with many more years of lif..."


I often avoid literary criticism for those very reasons, Mike!


message 9: by Melki (new)

Melki | 46 comments It will be a first read for me, when I finally get to read it, that is. My husband stole it from my stack, and even though he pronounced it "too weird" when he tried reading it a few years ago, seems to be happily enjoying it now. (Judging from the number of chuckles I hear whenever he is reading...)


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Melki wrote: "It will be a first read for me, when I finally get to read it, that is. My husband stole it from my stack, and even though he pronounced it "too weird" when he tried reading it a few years ago, se..."

Well, Melki, this is the perfect opportunity for you to share the book. Have him read it aloud to you. *smile* See how well he's able to recreate the rich dialect in character, of course.


message 11: by Melki (new)

Melki | 46 comments Interesting idea, Mike. He does a pretty funny Scottish accent. Never heard his Southern drawl before.


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa This is a reread for me. The first time I read this with a group that included a great lady from California. We loved the book, but she HATED it. I can still remember her saying, "There just can't be real people like that." Those of us living near New Orleans know this not to be true :)


Tajma Lisa wrote: "This is a reread for me. The first time I read this with a group that included a great lady from California. We loved the book, but she HATED it. I can still remember her saying, "There just can..."

It's interesting that you say that, Lisa. When I first read the novel I also thought there's no way people like this exist. It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book at all. I've never encountered anyone even remotely similar to any of these characters but I will defer to the expertise of those of you living in or near New Orleans. Even re-reading the novel and being familiar with the plot, I have no problem suspending my disbelief and losing myself in this world. It's a true credit to the enormous talent of this author.


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "This is a reread for me. The first time I read this with a group that included a great lady from California. We loved the book, but she HATED it. I can still remember her saying, "There just can..."

Oh, there definitely are. Your California friend is way past due for some time in N'awlins. Laughing!


Richard | 28 comments This is a first-time read for me. I rather like Mancuso, Darlene and Jones. Ignatius, on the other hand, irritates the daylights out of me, although he's prolly--oops, probably supposed to have that effect. His obsession with his gastro-intestinal system is just repulsive, and his literary outpourings are uproariously funny--intelligent and ridiculous at the same time.

Mike, I know what you mean about the mother-son dynamic--it hits rather close to home. Even though I don't live with my mom, we spend a lot of time together, and reading these pages makes me wonder whether I'm a bit of an Ignatius too. Heaven forfend! :)


message 16: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (last edited Mar 06, 2012 06:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Richard wrote: "This is a first-time read for me. I rather like Mancuso, Darlene and Jones. Ignatius, on the other hand, irritates the daylights out of me, although he's prolly--oops, probably supposed to have tha..."

Good morning, Richard. While Ignatius is the central character of the book, it is those around him, with whom he comes into contact that truly fascinate me the most. Ignatius is in a world of his own making which he tries to impose on a world in the present, which they are incapable of understanding, just as Ignatius is incapable of understanding theirs. We're all subject to the wheel of Fortuna.

Although it's not of the caliber of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, Fortune's wheel even emerges in popular song, not to mention Shakespeare. *grin*

From the lyrics of the song, made popular by Kaye Starr--"Wheel of Fortune" is a popular song written by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss and published in 1951. It was originally recorded in 1951 for Atlantic Records by The Cardinals. In one of the earliest examples of a major record label covering an independent black hit, Capitol recreated The Cardinals' arrangement for Kay Starr's hit version in 1952 [1]. The song was also used as the theme to the television series of the same name.


The wheel of fortune
Goes spinning around
Will the arrow point my way
Will this be my day

Oh, wheel of fortune
Please don't pass me by
Let me know the magic of
A kiss and a sign

While the wheel is spinning, spinning, spinning
I'll not dream of winning fortune or fame
While the wheel is turning, turning, turning
I'll be yearning, yearning
For love's precious flame

Oh, wheel of fortune
I'm hoping somehow
If you'll ever smile on me
Please let it be now

While the wheel is spinning, spinning, spinning
I'll not dream of winning fortune or fame
While the wheel is turning, turning, turning
I'll be yearning, yearning
For love's precious flame

Oh, wheel of fortune
I'm hoping somehow
If you ever smile on me
Please let it be now

And, yes, the mother-son dynamic hits especially close to home for me.


Jeffrey Keeten (jkeeten) This a second read for me and I was amazed that I remembered most of the book despite having read it 25+ years ago. Either the book left an indelible impression upon me or my memory was much better then. I'm thinking it was a combination of both. I posted a short review and tried to stay away from spoilers, but pointed out some pieces that particularly resonated with me this second go around. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 18: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Jeffrey wrote: "This a second read for me and I was amazed that I remembered most of the book despite having read it 25+ years ago. Either the book left an indelible impression upon me or my memory was much bette..."

Group, Jeff is an outstanding contributor to the goodreads community. The breadth and depth of his reading is an inspiration to me. It is a special pleasure to me that he is a member of this group. And over time, know that each of you are becoming just as special to me.

I highly recommend his reviews. I hope that he won't consider this blowing his cover to more than he would appreciate, but I highly recommend his reviews. They are always fresh, insightful, and a pleasure to read. He is also a long time worker in the bookselling world and one of my gently mad bibliophile friends. So, read his review and enjoy. And, yes, I'm jealous that he beat me to the punch with my own review. *chuckle*

Lawyer Stevens


Terry  (dulac3) First time read for me, though I've been meaning to get to it ever since I picked up a copy years ago on a trip to San Francisco and a visit to Green Apple books. I've been curious what my reaction to this would be givne that my undergraduate training was as a medievalist and at least one friend who has read the book likened Ignatius to a former roommate of mine. Luckily it seems that while certain similarities of character and outlook can be seen, thus far I think my roommate was a much weaker version of Ignatius!

I'm only on chapter two so far (his "loving" remembrances of his childhood collie...yuck!) so it's too early to judge, but I'm finding Ignatius very annoying already and am hoping that things will be bolstered by other characters soon. I also have to admit that at this point I don't quite "get" Patrolman Mancuso...though it is very early days.


message 20: by Misty (new)

Misty Wilson | 2 comments This is my first time reading Dunces. I am only a chapter into the book. I can already see that this is going to be quite an adventure. I can't wait to really "get into it" this weekend!


Jeffrey Keeten (jkeeten) Dulac3 wrote: "First time read for me, though I've been meaning to get to it ever since I picked up a copy years ago on a trip to San Francisco and a visit to Green Apple books. I've been curious what my reaction..."

I used to manage the used book side of Green Apple Books. I was brought in to help them also expand into music. Awesome store!!!


Terry  (dulac3) Jeffrey wrote: "I used to manage the used book side of Green Apple Books. I was brought in to help them also expand into music. Awesome store!!!"

Isn't it though? I've only been to SF twice, but both times I made a point of going there. I think I bought the book from the used section too...perhaps I even saw you. :)


Tajma I've been down with the flu for the past few days. My head hurts so badly that there's no way I can pick up this book. As much I laugh while reading it I'd be in agony! I'm hoping to get better soon so that I can continue. I miss Ignatius.


message 24: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Tajma wrote: "I've been down with the flu for the past few days. My head hurts so badly that there's no way I can pick up this book. As much I laugh while reading it I'd be in agony! I'm hoping to get better soo..."

Tajma, wishing you a speedy recovery. While some say laughter is the best medicine, quite and solitude is probably best for the flu. Perhaps, a cozy English mystery and some hot tea is what the doctor orders.

Lawyer Stevens


Larry Bassett | 0 comments My experience is that a book get extra points if the reader is familiar with the setting. Reading about known streets and places gives special enjoyment. That being said, I have never been to NOLA so I miss that connection and familiarity that many have mentioned. If you love New Orleans, there is a better chance that you will love A Confederacy of Dunces.


Marlene (marlene1001) I started reading it finally and so far enjoying it very much. The encounter with the policeman was priceless! Now I have to see how it goes on, so I might change my opinion. You'll be the first to know.


message 27: by Elle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elle Thornton | 56 comments The last paragraph in Lawyer Stevens's March 3 post really hit home. He wrote, in part: "Toole created a living, breathing world, with living breathing people, with faults, flaws, and those moments which endear them to us. It still lives and breathes with the same magic that first possessed me. But now, I also recognize the sadness that tinges the pages of the novel."
I, too, read this book years ago when it was first published. I still remember being astonished at the writer's incredible 'voice'. And the writer's power to make me love Ignatius was astonishing. At the time, this book made me laugh more than any other book I'd read. But now when I see the book on my shelf,it is sadness and loss that I feel. Lawyer Stevens, thank you for your affirming post.


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Elle wrote: "The last paragraph in Lawyer Stevens's March 3 post really hit home. He wrote, in part: "Toole created a living, breathing world, with living breathing people, with faults, flaws, and those moments..."

Many thanks for your comments, Elle. A second read of a novel gobbled up in a few sittings years ago often leads to a much different perception. As the clock ticks, it's amazing how much we continue to learn, not even aware of it, until something from our past triggers it.

Lawyer Stevens


Leonore | 2 comments Everitt wrote: "I'm curious how many people are reading this for the first time? And how many of us are reading again?

It's a re-read for me. But I love the book. It brings back memories of high school, when I r..."


Is not humor derived from tragedy? This is my first reading of the book, and although I laughed, I also found the book to be a sad commentary on how people treat nonconformity. Even his mother rejected Ignatius! The book describes people as petty, mean-spirited, greedy, and corrupt, not to mention selfish. The one person who loved Ignatius, the woman from the Bronx, was someone with whom he had a love/hate relationship. Is Ignatius capable of loving anyone but himself?


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Leonore wrote: "The one person who loved Ignatius, the woman from the Bronx, was someone with whom he had a love/hate relationship. Is Ignatius capable of loving anyone but himself?"

Oh, I think everyone is capable of love. It just takes some folks longer than others to discover the ability. Is Ignatius' referral to Myrna as "little minx" a term of contempt or in the deepest recesses of his mind an endearment? Being a hopelessly romantic man, I prefer to think when he sorts everything out Ignatius recognizes it as a term of endearment. I can see Myrna with her guitar slung behind her back and that long braid of dark hair. It makes me wonder if Toole had become familiar with the young Joan Baez. Because that is the precise image I have of Myrna.

Lawyer Stevens


Kathleen | 127 comments Embarrassingly, I am just starting in on this book, despite it being nearly mid-month. It is a re-read for me. I loved it the first time back in the early 80's. I had lived in New Orleans in the late 70's, so all the places, the people (and yeah, the people in the book did not strike me as exaggerated at all), and especially the language made it a particularly gratifying read.

I am unable to visualize (my brain is a radio, not a tv). Rather than seeing pictures as I read, I just hear the audio, so the accent being spot on in a book set in a particular place (especially a place I have lived and would know the difference) is critical.

I am looking forward to re-enjoying Ignatius's adventures and remembering my time enjoying New Orleans and the people of that great city.


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Embarrassingly, I am just starting in on this book, despite it being nearly mid-month. It is a re-read for me. I loved it the first time back in the early 80's. I had lived in New Orleans in the la..."

Kathy, absolutely no reason to be embarrassed. I know how much you read! Loved the comment that the people are not exaggerated at all. They are definitely not. I had the privilege of helping a father obtain custody of his daughter after the child's mother was killed in a car wreck. He was an outstanding young man from New Orleans who had come to school in Tuscaloosa following Katrina. His Mama sews Mardi Gras gowns. You should see their home. Absolutely sensational. Each and every one of that family will always be special to me. Their dialect? Straight out of "Confederacy of Dunces." Another party's attorney claimed they were, well, it wasn't flattering. It made seeing that child at home in N'awlins all the sweeter. *chuckle* And I always have folks to visit when I'm down in the Big Easy. *GRIN*

Mike,
Lawyer Stevens


Jessie J (subseti) | 296 comments This is a first read for me and I'm only about a quarter of the way through. I would enjoy it a lot better if Ignacius weren't in it. I do see reflections of relatives (who will remain unnamed) in the characters, especially those of Ignacius and their neighbors, etc.

I am "laughing out loud" at the "minor" characters, however. (view spoiler)

Normally, I hate reading novels with dialect, because I'm sure authors believe they are getting it right...when they aren't. But Toole's is pretty easy to follow. I don't think this is a spoiler: "Scarla O'Horror" was one that had me rolling!

I don't understand the focus on Brooklyn and the Bronx, though. To me, it has a *base* similar to every other coastal Southern dialect that was strongly influenced by French. There are probably elements that are influenced by it being a port town, but if you have never been to New Orleans (and it doesn't sound anything like "Nawlins" when someone down there says it, to me) and you're basing your inner voice on Brooklyn and the Bronx, well, no wonder you're having trouble.

I'm far, far away from any linguistic studies I had in college, and I can't reproduce anything with the IPA anymore, I'm sure. Good luck with that! ;^)


Franky | 322 comments I'm reading for the first time, although I did try to read once and couldn't get past the first few chapters. I had a difficult time identifying or liking any one of these characters, but I'll try to read the whole thing through this time with an open mind.


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