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Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
Grove Press, Inc.
First Black Cat Edition, Second Printing - 1981 - paperback - 415

I fear, in an alternate universe, I may be Ignatius J. Reilly. Perhaps it is my Irish Catholic upbringing that leads me to believe, in my dark moments, that despite my good intentions, I am worth less than a small pile of flea turds. When it gets bad, I break out this book and give it another read. The laughter it induces is enough to bring me out of my funk, but I also realize -- Damn! -- things could be worse.

Here is a man who is obviously smart and well educated, but unable to function normally in human society. It isn't worthwhile to delve into the reasons because we don't WANT him to be anything other than his dysfunctional self. This man's ability to inadvertently cause trouble -- which ricochets through New Orleans, usually to return at an order of magnitude greater -- is prodigious. You want to like him, but he won't let you: you are too modern and probably an offense against any criteria of taste and decency. If you want to get on his good side, be seen carrying a copy of Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, or, better yet, ask him about his trip to Baton Rouge.

Like a bitch in heat, I seem to attract a coterie of policemen and sanitation officials. The world will someday get me on some ludicrous pretext; I simply await the day they drag me to some airconditioned dungeon and leave me there beneath the fluorescent lights and sound-proofed ceiling to pay the price of scorning all that they hold dear within their little latex hearts.

Ignatius J. Reilly

This is the only published work by the author, who committed suicide at the age of 31. We are only able to read it because his mother found a carbon copy of the manuscript in the trash. Others lament what we may have lost due do his untimely death. I am not so sure. It's not that I'm glad he's dead, it just presumes that he could have written more. Even so, should he have had a long string of successes, it would have lessened A Confederacy of Dunces, made it but one among many. Can't have that. This book must be a unique treasure.