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Cannonball Read V: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

By BenML | Book Reviews | January 29, 2013 | Comments ()


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Ignatius J. Reilly is a madman. His hat is green, his stomach is bulging, and his mustache is black and often crumb-filled. He makes me laugh really, really hard. A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the funniest books I've ever read. So funny in fact, that, while I was always eager to read it, I usually had to put it down after a while because of abdominal exhaustion.

This is the story of Ignatius, a flatulent, disagreeable oaf (though oaf might be strong--he has read lots of the classics and speaks with great, raving, psychotic wit) that lives with his mother in a run down house on a run down street in New Orleans. He spends most of his time in his room, dealing with a few stomach issues and writing endless rants about the deplorable age he inhabits. Writing is his main activity, and though he strives for critical greatness and recognition, he is not above penning works that appeal to the ignorant masses to get his name out there (and make a buck or two). Unfortunately, due a chance encounter with a twitchy policeman, his mother gets a tad tipsy, backs her car into a building, and forces Ignatius to get a job in order to cover the damages. This seemingly minor event sends the story plunging into the deep end.

As you might expect, Ignatius is not cut out for the workforce. I could ramble on here, but the book must speak for itself. It is organized as a series of chronological anecdotes centered on Ignatius, but an oddly intertwined cast of characters find themselves sunk into the mix with him. The book keeps get funnier as he gets grumpier, more confused, and at times, irate. Ignatius doesn't "say" much...he screams it, typically in the direction of his mother or anyone he deems more idiotic than himself (everyone).

What I liked most was the dialogue. Every character is perfectly done, and their interactions are priceless. I was not kidding when I said I had ab cramps. Read this book when you are alone and far from others, lest you be thought a hysteric.

I'll leave you with this:

"I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip."

Now go get a cheese dip yourself and be ready to snort some out your nose.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it, and for more of BenML's reviews, check out his eponymous blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • I strongly suspect Ignatius may be an unrepentant lactose intolerant.

  • Geena Phillips

    One of my favorite books EVER. The thing about Ignatius that, I believe, resonates so strongly is that each of us has a little piece inside that is just like him. And the attending self-loathing that comes with this realization draws readers back to the book again and again.

  • Nicolae

    One of the best. Sad the author never knew of the success.

  • Some Guy

    An unexpectedly hilarious book.

    Couple of key-points:

    Toole committed suicide after completing the book but before he ever got it published. His mother took it upon herself to take it to publishers, and it won Toole the pulitzer prize for fiction.

    Also, at various points John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farley were all slated to play Ignatius in a film adaptation...

  • Mitchell Hundred

    If you find yourself reading this book, there is little doubt that the Wheel of Fortune is edging you toward its peak. Prepare yourself for a downfall, albeit one that is well worth it.

  • manting

    I attended Loyola of New Orleans partly because of this book. I lived uptown on the corner of Roberts and Perrier near the Prytania Thearter - its a one screen theater that I used to goto as did Ignatius (his name was changed to Ignatius by Harry Crews - himself a great southern author - while he was a professor at Loyola (Ignatius Loyola is the founder of the Jesuit Order). I have given this book to people as a gift like 20 times. Ignatius is the American Don Quixote.

  • Donocaster

    I've heard talk of making this into a movie a couple of times—most recently with Will Ferrell as Ignatius. I'm kinda glad that one didn't work out.

  • JFC I will have a monumental conniption FIT if Will Ferrell gets anywhere near Ignatius.

  • BWeaves

    Oh, my valve!

    My favorite character was Jones.

    I read this for the first time about 30 years ago, and immediately began casting my dream movie for it. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Will Ferrell has been trying to get this made, I think its time has past. It's set in the 1960's, and some of the characters could be considered racist or racist portrayals.

    Actually, the history behind getting this novel published would make an interesting movie in itself. John Kennedy Toole wrote the novel in his twenties, but it was rejected. He committed suicide at 31, and his mother shopped the book around to get it published. It won the Pulitzer Prize.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    Shopped it around for a couple of decades, if I recall correctly.

  • I've read Confederacy of Dunces once a year for over 20 years and my LOL'ing hasn't diminished a jot. Oh Ignatius J. Reilly, you are a mad genius.

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