Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Review-A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) by John Kennedy Toole

I had not heard of the book A Confederacy of Dunces, written by John Kennedy Toole, until I visited New Orleans this past February. I was sitting in the lobby bar at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside with my wife Tammy and sister-in Cindy having a drink while we waited for my brother Tim to finish up with his business meeting at a convention he was attending. We had just finished exploring the French Quarter, and were talking about how great a place New Orleans was, with it's eclectic culture, and it's history, both glamorous and sordid. I mentioned that I would love to find the definitive book on New Orleans, when a gentleman sitting near us piped up that if I wanted to read a book that captured the essence of New Orleans, it was A Confederacy of Dunces.

My sister-in-law Cindy had also known of the book, so the next day when we visited Faulkner House Books in the French Quarter she purchased it for me.

This satirical novel is centered around the character Ignatius J. Reilly, an overweight, slovenly, well-educated 30 year old idealist who still lives with his mother in New Orleans. Ignatius believes that he can change society for the better, but his methods and beliefs just don't mesh with the times or the people he tries to influence.

The author, John Kennedy Toole does a brilliant job weaving multiple characters and subplots into the novel, all of which are funny and even border on the absurd. And that is the beauty of this book, as Mr. Toole is able to connect all of the subplots back to Ignatius as the book reaches it's climax.

To be clear, this book is not a lesson in New Orleans history, but rather a fictionalized look at a group of distinctly southern characters at a point in time in the early 1960's. John Kennedy Toole's ability to accurately capture the dialect of the region in the book's dialogs along with his ability to accurately describe the neighborhoods, bars and businesses in New Orleans (with emphasis on the French Quarter) as the backdrop is what makes this novel a success in capturing the essence of New Orleans.

Ultimately what makes this book so good is it is very, very funny!

Interesting side note. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31. He had tried to get the novel published but was unsuccessful. Eleven years later, his Mother brought the unpublished manuscript to the attention of novelist Walker Percy who helped to get it published. The novel and Mr. Toole won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981.

A Confederacy of DuncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book, here's my review:

View all my reviews

1 comment:

Brad Wirz said...

Hey just a heads up that we just linked to your review of A Confederacy of Dunces on our blog. Check it out at the link below and let me know what you think!