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"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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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ISBN-10:  0807126063
ISBN-13:  978-0807126066
Author:  John Kennedy Toole
Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Publisher:  Louisiana State University Press
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More A Confederacy of Dunces reviews
review by . November 19, 2007
A wonderfully funny novel -- with a protagonist so bizarre and beyond the pale that a reader almost longs for him to go away -- this book is a marvel of nuttiness and despair. Though it feels less weighty and far less politically correct than many other Pulitzer Prize winners, the award does not suprise me in the least. That it was awarded posthumously -- the author a suicide long before publication -- overhangs the book with an air of irredeemable loss which only contributes to the reading. The …
review by . August 19, 2007
I first read John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces not too long after its initial publication and I remember being particularly saddened by the fact that such a talented writer had committed suicide even before his first book had been published. I found it incredibly sad that the world had been deprived of such a talent and wondered what might have been. But, despite the fact that the book has been on my shelves for more than two decades, and all my good intentions, I never got around to …
review by . August 30, 2006
New Orleanian Ignatius J. Reilly is monstrously fat. The corners of his mouth sink "into little folds filled with dasaproval and potato chip crumbs". The reader can almost smell his stale odor wafting off the page. He's lazy, unbearably prudish and arrogant, a thirty something agoraphobic who lives at home with his mother and writes hilariously bad prose in the service of a pretend book on medeival and modern civilizations.     He is shrill and dishonest, both selfish and self-deluded. …
A Confederacy of Dunces
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