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Monday, November 13, 2006

"A Confederacy of Dunces' John Kennedy Toole

"A Confederacy of Dunces" follows Ignatius Reilly, described by Walter Percy in his foreword as "slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one".

Ignatius is a colourful character surrounded by colourful characters, he is a man on a mission and yet he is lacking a mission. The one thing that does happen, his mum crashing her car, leads him to haphazardly stumble into working life (much against his will) where he has far-reaching impacts on the lives of those who get caught in his cross-fire. One such person is Mr Levy his ex-boss who turns out good in spite of (or because of) Ignatius leading his factory workers into revolt and writing to the companies biggest customer and ending the letter with, "if you molest us again, sir, you may feel the sting of the lash across your pitiful shoulders.

The characters surrounding Ignatius are equally as intriguing. Jones, Myrna, Miss Trixie. They are such developed characters that I could talk about them for ages, maybe I will in a separate post. The author had obviously spent a lot of time on those surrounding Ignatius' life, I feel like I know them personally.

Ignatius' dis-association to and isolation from modern life is a shared feeling amongst many people in our world today. He is my spokesman for that part of me which feels this way about certain things, politics, celebrity, corporate blah. And yet he continues to put himself into these situations, like his trips to the cinema when he shouts "What degenerate produced this abortion?"

I have also read John Kennedy Toole's other book which he wrote for a literary competition when he was sixteen. Sixteen. His story is a sad one. Depressed by what he saw as failure for not getting his manuscript published he killed himself at the age of 32. "A Confederacy of Dunces" was published years later (thanks to his mother) and it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 12 years after the author's death.

In the words of Jones "aint this the shit, ooo-wee!"