January 13, 2010

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I wanted to write about this book because it is such an incredible read that I felt I needed to contribute to spreading the word about it - if you haven't heard about it or read it then it's time you did. However, in trying to write the review I can't seem to find the words to do it justice. So I'll be brief. Firstly, it's pertinent to note that this irreverent dark comedy was published 11 years after the author's suicide. Toole was also posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the novel in 1981.

It's set in New Orleans in the 1960s. The main character is Ignatius J. Reilly - a 30 year-old overweight, hilariously revolting and well-educated man who lives with his mother and finds it difficult to function in a world filled with people he finds far inferior to himself. Of course the author describes him best: "A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs."

After an incident early on in the book Ignatius is forced to get a job and an uproarious comedy of errors ensues. Some readers struggle with Ignatius' absurd self-indulgent ramblings, his arrogance bordering on delusions of grandeur, but I could not get enough. He's been described as the hero you love to hate, but I just thought he was great. Whilst reading this book I was always smiling, often chuckling and frequently laughing out loud. I can't wait to read it again.

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