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A Confederacy of Duncesby John Kennedy Toole
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 07:00 PM
Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton, OR
This month we meet to discuss A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Join us!
Synopses & Reviews
When a true genius appears in the world,
So enters one of the most memorable characters in American fiction, Ignatius J. Reilly.
John Kennedy Toole's hero is one, "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures." (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).
Ignatius J. Reilly is a flatulent frustrated scholar deeply learned in Medieval philosophy and American junk food, a brainy mammoth misfit imprisoned in a trashy world of Greyhound Buses and Doris Day movies. He is in violent revolt against the entire modern age.
Ignatius' peripatetic employment takes him from Levy Pants, where he leads a workers' revolt, to the French Quarter, where he waddles behind a hot dog wagon that serves as his fortress.
A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece that outswifts Swift, whose poem gives the book its title. Set in New Orleans, the novel bursts into life on Canal Street under the clock at D. H. Holmes department store. The characters leave the city and literature forever marked by their presences — Ignatius and his mother; Mrs. Reilly's matchmaking friend, Santa Battaglia; Miss Trixie, the octogenarian assistant accountant at Levy Pants; inept, bemused Patrolman Mancuso; Jones, the jivecat in spaceage dark glasses. Juvenal, Rabelais, Cervantes, Fielding, Swift, Dickens — their spirits are all here. Filled with unforgettable characters and unbelievable plot twists, shimmering with intelligence, and dazzling in its originality, Toole's comic classic just keeps getting better year after year.
Released by Louisiana State University Press in April 1980 and published in paperback in 1981 by Grove Press, A Confederacy of Dunces is nothing short of a publishing phenomenon. Turned down by countless publishers and submitted by the author's mother years after his suicide, the book won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Today, there are over 1,500,000 copies in print worldwide in eighteen languages.
"This novel records the adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, a Falstaffian slob who is also one of the most memorable characters in recent fiction. Ignatius wallows through New Orleans reminiscing about Abelard, Boethius, and Batman, while railing against Freud, academics, and Greyhound buses. Like his creator, who committed suicide in 1969, Ignatius never finds his place in the modern world. This comic novel, on the other hand, should have no trouble finding a niche in the literary world; it is a superb mock-heroic tale that is full of the exuberance—and the profound solitude—of life." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"A masterwork...the novel astonishes with its inventiveness...it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue." The New York Times Book Review
"Astonishing, extravagant, lunatic, satiric, and peculiar, but it is above all genuine, skillful, and unsentimentally comic." Booklist
"A corker, an epic comedy, a rumbling, roaring avalanche of a book." The Washington Post
"A masterpiece of character comedy...brilliant, relentless, delicious, perhaps even classic." Kirkus Reviews
"Crazy magnificent once-in-a-blue-moon first novel....There is a touch of genius about Toole and what he has created." Publishers Weekly
"An astonishingly good novel, radiant with intelligence and artful high comedy." Newsweek
"You'll be hooked, rolling on the floor laughing at the antics of main character Ignatius Reilly, an intellectual deadbeat goof-off and all his misadventures in New Orleans....This book has a Pulitzer to back up my claims of greatness." Susan Reinhardt, Gainsville Times
"One of the funniest books ever written...it will make you laugh out loud till your belly aches and your eyes water." The New Republic
"I found myself laughing out loud again and again as I read this ribald book." Christian Science Monitor
"The episodes explode one after the other like fireworks on a stormy night. No doubt about it, this book is destined to become a classic." The Baltimore Sun
"A brilliant and evocative novel." San Francisco Chronicle
"The dialogue is superbly mad. You simply sweep along, unbelievably entranced." The Boston Globe
"If a book's price is measured against the laughs it provokes, A Confederacy of Dunces is the bargain of the year." Time
"An astonishingly original and assured comic spree." New York
"As hilarious as it indisputably is, A Confederacy of Dunces is a serious and important work." Los Angeles Herald Examiner
A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).
About the Author
John Kennedy Toole was born in New Orleans in 1937. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter and the University of Southwestern Louisiana. In 1969, frustrated at his failure to interest a publisher in A Confederacy of Dunces, he committed suicide. Toole's book was eventually published, after his mother brought the work to the attention of Walker Percy and insisted that he read her son's manuscript. Percy became one of the novel's many admirers and The Confederacy of Dunces would eventually be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1981. Following that posthumous success, The Neon Bible, which Toole had written when he was sixteen, was first published in 1989.
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