Book 15: “A Confederacy of Dunces”, John Kennedy Toole

confederacy of dunces hyperbolic review

You simply must read this book. Goddam.

While I am perhaps coming on a bit strong, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, protagonised by Ignatius Reilly, is not a book that lends itself to qualified (in the syntactic sense) or in any way guarded statements. I thus feel it appropriate to proclaim that the text is a work of genius and ought to be added as the fourth “r” to the general education method (“reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic”), and, if four r’s are deemed too many, I feel it ought to replace writing. Indeed, all that there is to be learnt of good writing can be learnt in this book.

If you thought Napoleon Dyamite was original in that it had virtually no plot, merely inane characters, you will think again once you read this book. If you thought that Snatch, Go or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels displayed a brilliant mastery of the plot twist, you may think again once you finish the book’s ultimate chapter. If you thought the first thing you would save in a housefire was your pet, marriage photos, or loved ones, you may think again once you own a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces.

I encourage you to get a copy (library or Amazon). I encourage you to read it. I further encourage you to adopt the contrived and rather absurd argot of the fat, garish, arrogant and boorish protagonist Ignatius Reilly. In the canon of literature there are many remarkable characters. In my own reading I remember empathising with Goethe’s Werther, adventuring with Heller’s Yossarian, and trudging alongside Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Billy Pilgrim. But none of these characters can hold a candle to Ignatius Reilly. I have delved in to Anna Karenina’s life, I have laughed at Ford Prefect’s absurdities, I have recoiled at Alex’s ultra-violence. But none of these characters is as memorable as Ignatius Reilly. Humbert Humbert has charmed and appalled me, Jem Finch has impressed me, and Napoleon the boar has somewhat offended my sense of justice. But none of these characters has had quite the effect of Ignatius Reilly. Indeed, I suspect I will continue to read throughout my life, hopefully eventually polishing off the works of Dickens (who, I understand, is quite the characteriser), and never encounter a character that is as superlative as Ignatius Reilly.

Read the goddam book.

Rating: Awesome/5

Get “A Confederacy of Dunces” on Amazon


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