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A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy…

A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)

by John Kennedy Toole

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
17,238381162 (3.97)1 / 558
  1. 234
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (InvisiblerMan)
  2. 82
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    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  4. 51
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  5. 40
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    lilithcat: The true craziness behind Toole's fiction.
  6. 40
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  11. 31
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  12. 21
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  13. 10
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  14. 21
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    pgmcc: Both books take a quirky viewpoint on the world. They are also both about loneliness and isolation, yet really good reads.
  15. 32
    Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Flashman is a selfish coward; Toole's Ignatius is lazy, judgmental, and has delusions of grandeur. Yet through their hilarious narration of their misadventures, we come to sympathize with them and cheer for them in their bizarre quests.
  16. 21
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  18. 43
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  20. 21
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English (357)  French (9)  Spanish (8)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (381)
Showing 1-5 of 357 (next | show all)
“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

A very funny but, as its detractors like to point out, slightly flabby book, A Confederacy of Dunces is dominated by the huge blancmange-like presence of its protagonist, Ignatius J Reilly. Gluttonous, onanistic, loquacious and determinedly hard done-by, he's a Falstaffian creation, a kind of demonic Oliver Hardy rolling and farting and fulminating through a brilliantly evoked 1960s New Orleans.

There is no looking past Ignatius – if you can't stand him, then you're not going to get far with this book. Still, I'm kind of surprised that so many of the negative reviews here are just complaints that Ignatius is unpleasant, or that the underlying sadness of his situation stops it from being funny. Maybe it's just different backgrounds, but for me he fits perfectly into the tradition of English comedy where I'm most comfortable, and where focusing on articulate but amoral monsters has been de rigueur from Saki to Blackadder. And yes, his situation is pretty pathetic, but you can't have good comedy without underlying pain. Besides, he wouldn't have it any other way. ‘Optimism nauseates me. It is perverse,’ as Ignatius declaims himself. ‘Since man's fall, his proper position in the universe has been one of misery.’

A failure in every aspect of his life, Ignatius, in his thirties, still lives at home with his mother in a dilapidated house in (what was then) the lower-class district of Constantinople Street. The novel's plotlessness follows the plotlessness of his own life, as he fails in a sequence of menial jobs (including most famously as a street hot-dog vendor), sabotages his mother's social life, tries to lead a black workers' uprising, and concocts an innovative plan to bring about world peace.

There is something almost heroic about Ignatius's refusal to accept his dismal position in life – he reacts to every indignity not with acceptance, but with voluble fury. Every time he opens his mouth to issue another misplaced denunciation against someone who's only trying to help him, I mentally rub my hands together with glee. It's just too much fun. And he's surrounded by this wonderful cast of supporting characters, all of them nonsensical stereotypes but portrayed with such disinterested, across-the-board mockery that it's impossible to find them offensive. I particularly loved Myrna Minkoff, a New York beatnik and caricature of the lefty liberated New Woman, with whom Ignatius is conducting a feverish love-hate correspondence.

When she writes him her plans to deliver a lecture at the Bronx YWCA on the theme of ‘Erotic Liberty as a Weapon Against Reactionaries’, Ignatius scribbles back in extravagant derision:

On the dark night of that dubious lecture, the sole member of your audience will probably be some desperately lonely old male librarian who saw a light in the window of the lecture hall and hopefully came in to escape the cold and the horrors of his personal hell. There in the hall, his stooped figure sitting alone before the podium, your nasal voice echoing among the empty chairs and hammering boredom, confusion and sexual reference deeper and deeper into the poor wretch's bald skull, confounded to the point of hysteria, he will doubtlessly exhibit himself, waving his crabbed organ like a club in despair against the grim sound that drones on and on over his head.

Your mileage may vary, but I could read pages and pages of this stuff. Which is just as well, because the book is not as tight as it could be, owing in part to the author's having committed suicide before getting it published instead of after. Unlike with some authors, I don't think that Toole's suicide actually has much relevance to the themes of A Confederacy of Dunces; I don't see this book as a howl of despair at an uncaring world, and I don't think Toole intended us to sympathise with Ignatius's worldview any more than we need to to find him by turns funny or tragic. It's much more knockabout and picaresque than that, as I think the ending makes clear.

It's also, among other things, a wonderful New Orleans book, in which the city's language and psychogeography play a major role. Toole's notation of the local dialect is both cartoonish and somehow completely convincing, and in a memorable aside, Ignatius describes the city as being ‘famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, Antichrists, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians’ – which does rather unfairly raise my hopes as someone planning a trip there next week. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Mar 8, 2019 |
It was crucial to read this when I didn't know better. There is a suspicion that I wouldn't have liked it as much had I encountered it later. that said, I do find it odd that many who trash this as overripe tomfoolery appear to appreciate Pynchon for just such zany liberties. Neither here nor there. I have bought this book for many people. I seldom ask them what they thought. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I will, in all frankness, admit that I couldn't get past the first few scenes of the book. I found the lead character's personality so grating that I didn't want to hear any more about him. It made me yearn for the New Orleans Police Department to use unreasonable force on him. Maybe I'll give it a second chance down the road. Maybe I won't. ( )
  EricCostello | Feb 14, 2019 |
I found this book both very funny and sad, when I read it quite a few years ago. Being a resident of New Orleans probably helped. The characters and dialog were completely believable, because I encountered people much like them in the course of everyday life. Of course it's not quite great literature. No way to tell if Toole was a flash in the pan, or would have gone on to write even better novels. ( )
  laursand | Jan 26, 2019 |
**True confessions - I listened to this book as an audiobook

Our main character's name is Ignatius Reilly who is a 30 year old who lives at home with his mother in New Orleans. He doesn't work, but after a run in with the law, his mother forces him to leave the house and look for a job. Ignatius is self centered and delusional, and gives his mother a million excuses on why he cannot get a job, or even why he can't go for an interview for a job. He is nothing better than a lazy-man child that a reader will love to hate.

This book was....weird. I didn't find it particularly funny - even though it is advertised as such. The characters were odd, and there is no way to like Ignatius even a little bit (although, I am thinking we as readers never really are supposed to). But I just kind of listened, and rolled along with the story, but never became fully invested in the book.

I finished the book, but I don't recommend it. It seemed like a repetitive Vaudeville act - not going anywhere. In my opinion - not worth the time.

( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 357 (next | show all)
A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities - yet flawed in places by its very virtues.
Ultimately, Ignatius is simply too grotesque and loony to be taken for a genius; the world he howls at seems less awful than he does. Pratfalls can pass beyond slapstick only if they echo, and most of the ones in this novel do not. They are terribly funny, though, and if a book's price is measured against the laughs it provokes, A Confederacy of Dunces is the bargain of the year.
added by Shortride | editTime, Paul Gray (Jun 2, 1980)
This is the kind of book one wants to keep quoting from. I could, with keen pleasure, copy all of Jones's dialogue out and then get down to the other characters. Apart from being a fine funny novel (but also comic in the wider sense, like Gargantua or Ulysses), this is a classic compendium of Louisiana speech. What evidently fascinated Toole (a genuine scholar, MA Columbia and so on) about his own town was something that A.J. Liebling noted in his The Earl of Louisiana: the existence of a New Orleans city accent close to the old Al Smith tonality, 'extinct in Manhattan', living alongside a plantation dialect which cried out for accurate recording.
added by SnootyBaronet | editObserver, Anthony Burgess
El protagonista de esta novela es uno de los personajes más memorables de la literatura norteamericana: Ignatus Reilly -una mezcla de Oliver Hardy delirante, Don Quijote adiposo y santo Tomás de Aquino, perverso, reunidos en una persona-, que a los treinta años aún vive con su estrafalaria madre, ocupado en escribir una extensa y demoledora denuncia contra nuestro siglo, tan carente de teología y geometría como de decencia y buen gusto, un alegado desquiciado contra una sociedad desquiciada. Por una inesperada necesidad de dinero, se ve 'catapultado en la fiebre de la existencia contemporánea', embarcándose en empleos y empresas de lo más disparatado.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

Ruggero Bianchi
settembre 1998
Il caso di Una banda di idioti di John Kennedy Toole ricorda sorprendentemente, per molti versi, quello di Il giovane Holden di J.D. Salinger. Opere, entrambe, di autori (quasi) esordienti e comunque alla loro prima esperienza nel campo della narrativa lunga. E scritte, entrambe, da artisti irrequieti e verosimilmente nevrotici, non disposti a campare sulla sinecura del loro primo successo. Conosciamo tutti, di Salinger, la scelta di centellinare i propri scritti e di difendere la sua scelta esistenziale, una sorte di coleridgiana morte-in-vita. Ma pochi sanno della fine di Toole, nato nel 1937 e suicidatosi nel 1969, a soli trentadue anni, lasciando alla madre il compito di trasformare in bestseller e in classico moderno un libro che forse non pensava di poter mai pubblicare e che, negli Stati Uniti, uscì grazie soltanto al parere autorevole (sebbene segretamente perplesso) del celebre critico Walter Percy, che firma anche l’introduzione all’edizione italiana.Ma le analogie non si fermano qui. Sia Il govane Holden che Una banda di idioti pongono, fin dal titolo, grossi problemi alla bravura dei traduttori.
Il primo alludendo, con la dizione originale di The Catcher in the Rye, alle figure del baseball e alle coltivazioni del mais; il secondo chiamando in causa, sotto la formula di A Confederacy of Duncies, la realtà di un Sud "confederato" nella guerra civile e l’indimenticato poema di Alexander Pope, The Dunciad (1728), un capolavoro satirico inglese del primo Settecento che nessuno oggi legge come nessuno oggi legge il Parini e, probabilmente, per le stesse ragioni. Come se non bastasse, ai due romanzi è toccata di fatto la medesima sorte in Italia. The Catcher in the Rye di Salinger, uscito nel 1952 nel nostro Paese con il titolo Vita da uomo (Casini editore, traduzione di Jacopo Darca), divenne un bestseller grazie alla nuova edizione di Einaudi del 1961 (trad. di A. Motti). A Confederacy of Duncies passò inosservato dal pubblico una quindicina d’anni fa, sebbene Luciana Bianciardi vincesse, per la sua traduzione oggi ripubblicata in altra cornice, il Premio Monselice 1983.
added by cf66 | editTuttolibri, Ruggero Bianchi

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toole, John Kennedyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capus, AlexTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Percy, WalkerForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
SanjulianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.-- Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects (1706)
There is a New Orleans city accent...associated with downtown New Orleans, particularly with the German and Irish Third Ward, that is hard to distinguish from the accent of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Astoria, Long Island, where the Al Smith inflection, extinct in Manhattan, has taken refuge. The reason, as you might expect, is that the same stocks that brought the accent to Manhattan imposed it on New Orleans.

"You're right on that. We're Mediterranean. I've never been to Greece or Italy, but I'm sure I'd be at home there as soon as I landed."
He would too, I thought. New Orleans resembles Genoa or Marseilles, or Beirut or the Egyptian Alexandria more than it does New York, although all seaports resemble one another more than they can resemble any place in the interior. Like Havana and Port-au-Prince, New Orleans is within the orbit of a Hellenistic world that never touched the North Atlantic. The Mediterranean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico form a homogeneous, though interuppted, sea.
A. J. Liebling,
First words
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.
Perhaps the best way to introduce this novel-which on my third reading of it astounds me even more than the first-is to tell of my first encounter with it. (Foreword)
"The only problem those people have anyway is that they don't like new cars and hair sprays. That's why they are put away. They make the other members of society fearful. Every asylum in this nation is filled with poor souls who simply cannot stand lanolin, cellophane, plastic, television, and subdivisions."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802130208, Paperback)

"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."

Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole's tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. ("Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.") But Ignatius's quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso--who mistakes him for a vagrant--and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.

Over the next several hundred pages, our hero stumbles from one adventure to the next. His stint as a hotdog vendor is less than successful, and he soon turns his employers at the Levy Pants Company on their heads. Ignatius's path through the working world is populated by marvelous secondary characters: the stripper Darlene and her talented cockatoo; the septuagenarian secretary Miss Trixie, whose desperate attempts to retire are constantly, comically thwarted; gay blade Dorian Greene; sinister Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; and Myrna Minkoff, the girl Ignatius loves to hate. The many subplots that weave through A Confederacy of Dunces are as complicated as anything you'll find in a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end. But it is Ignatius--selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life--who carries the story. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. His fragility cracks the shell of comic bluster, revealing a deep streak of melancholy beneath the antic humor. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969 and never saw the publication of his novel. Ignatius Reilly is what he left behind, a fitting memorial to a talented and tormented life. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:08 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, --selfish, domineering, deluded, tragic and larger than life-- is a noble crusader against a world of dunces. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. In magnificent revolt against the twentieth century, Ignatius propels his monstrous bulk among the flesh posts of the fallen city, documenting life on his Big Chief tablets as he goes, until his maroon-haired mother decrees that Ignatius must work.… (more)

» see all 18 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182865, 0141023465, 0141045647, 0241951593

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