0423 | A Confederacy of Dunces | John Kennedy Toole

0423 | A Confederacy of Dunces | John Kennedy Toole

Context: Was reading this on my trip back to the UK from Saudi where I stopped in Bahrain and sampled some dates.

I was hoping this was going to be funnier than it was. It’s a satirical look at the USAnian way of life through the eyes of one of the great characters of American fiction: Ignatius J. Reilly. He’s a pretty nasty piece of work, totally self-absorbed and living in an unreality enitrely of his own creation.

I didn’t find Ignatius particularly endearing. Neither did I find him entirely repulsive. There’s no doubt that society in the early 1960s was pretty messed up (as it always is), and Toole does a good job of creating messed-up characters who represent the worst of this. I rated it more highly than I appreciated it because it is, after all, an important book in the US literary canon.

There’s no doubt that Toole, whose novel was published over a decade after his suicide, has created memorable characters. But I didn’t really get the point of what Toole was trying to communicate through his creations. Is this a satire, or a farce, or a detective spoof, or all of the above or what?

So, about halfway through, I gave up trying to figure it out and just read it as a story. I think it lost some of its lustre then and seemed to kind of peter out towards the end in which loose ends tied up in fairly predictable ways.

But, if you are after a good description of 1960s New Orleans, I can’t recommend a better book.

 

OPENING LINE

A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.

99TH PAGE QUOTE

“Yeah. Poor Angelo. He’s so sweet. He sure got trouble at that precinct.” Santa coughed hoarsely into the telephone. “Anyway, it was the night you come for me in that car of yours and we went to the alley alone. This morning I was over by the fish market buying them ersters, and this old man comes up to me and says, ‘Wasn’y you by the bowling alley the other night?’ So I says, ‘Yeah, mister, I go there a lot. And he says well, I was there with my daughter and her husband and I seen you with a lady that got sorta red hair.’ I says. ‘You mean the lady got henna hair? That’s my friend Miss Reilly. I’m learning her how to bowl.’ That’s all Irene. He just tips his hat and walks out the market.”

CLOSING LINE

This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

RATING

0423 | A Confederacy of Dunces | John Kennedy Toole

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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