Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Confederacy of Dunces (by John Kennedy Toole)

This is a book I'd been meaning to read for a long time, but I'm so glad I read it right when I did, for two reasons. One, I started reading this while on my very first trip to New Orleans, and so my new familiarity with the wonderful details of that city -- from the accents to the landmarks to the geography -- made the novel really pop.* Second, Ignatius J. Reilly is compared in many places, including this edition's preface, to Don Quixote. So having just finished Don Quixote and having just visited New Orleans made it come together for me perfectly.

(*I didn't realize it was set in New Orleans until Ian came back from a beignet run with a picture of J. Ignatius Reilly on his cell phone. There's a statue of Reilly standing in the spot where the novel begins, holding his shopping bag and wearing his green cap. Wonderful. I took one look at the picture and downloaded the book immediately.)

I also know this novel is polarizing, and I can see why. It's an over-the-top satirical farce, with ridiculous characters and situations. I can definitely trace a line from the more absurdist aspects of Don Quixote to Confederacy. However, while Don Quixote eventually morphs into tragedy, Confederacy of Dunces remains a comedy, and one that may not appeal to everyone. Reilly is far from sympathetic, after all.*

(*But if you don't love Jones, I don't know what to say to you.)

This book made me laugh out loud, shake my head, and smile in recognition. Pass the Dr. Nut, this one gets a thumbs up!

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