Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Confederacy of Dunces

You know one of those books that's always on the periphery, that you've heard recommended but never quite got round to picking it up? A Confederacy of Dunces finally landed in my lap - and at first I wished it hadn't! I wasn't jibing with the humor, it felt alien, and the protagonist, Ignatius J Reilly, is utterly repulsive. He's the definitive anti-hero: a gluttonous, massive, lazy, deluded, pompous, unemployed 30-year old who lives with his mother (who he mistreats).

Yet when given an opportunity to reveal itself, the alien can expose you to a fascinating new worldview. So it was with Ignatius and this book. His mother forces him to get a job, and as Ignatious goes through a series of misadventures in employment, staging abortive coups, revolutions, belching, writing manifestos and railing against the machine, society, manners, decency (you can see why I'm liking this), even his anarchist, absent girlfriend Myrna Minkoff (the Minx), and most of all his mother Irene. He's constantly complaining about his "valve", the latest hideous offense "Fortuna" has wrought upon him, brandishing a cutlass and enlisting a calvacade of characters to his cause - my favorite being half-wit elderly Miss Trixie, who calls him Gloria. More than anything, Ignatius is written with deft, scathing, ultimately wholesome innocent humor.

The path to its publication is an extraordinary one. Its author, John Kennedy Toole, committed suicide at 31 (reportedly because he couldn't get this published). It was only through the perseverance of his mother, who shopped the manuscript around, that A Confederacy of Dunces, written in the 60s, was published in 1980 - going on to win the Pulitzer in 1981.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dearest Jesse,

Enjoyed your comments on "A Confederacy of Dunces." Will be sure to add it to my reading list. Now one for you: "Marching to an Angry Drum." A gay themed book from a list of books by C. Mitchell. The author told me his books are based on his life's experiences. This one, about life of a gay man in the military during the last part of the 1950's. Interesting book, simplistic in style. . .similar to your book. . . though I feel he utilized a lot of literary license. Hope you get to enjoy it!