confederacy of dunces review

Him & Her Review: A Confederacy of Dunces

I started listening to the audiobook of A Confederacy of Dunces and I immediately thought this was a book that my husband had to read because the humor in it is something I figured he’d appreciate. So basically I forced him to read it and then forced him to write a review for it (aren’t I the best?!). Since our last “him and her” review (Cannery Row) seemed to be well-received, I decided to do another one for this book. Read on to see if he liked the book as much as I thought he would.

Him & Her Review: A Confederacy of DuncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Published by Penguin Classics on October 6th 2016
Genres: Classic Literature, Fiction
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A stunning clothbound edition of John Kennedy Toole's savagely funny, satirical masterpiece, designed by the acclaimed Coralie-Bickford Smith.

A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. The ordinary folk of New Orleans seem to think he is unhinged. Ignatius ignores them, heaving his vast bulk through the city's fleshpots in a noble crusade against vice, modernity and ignorance. But his momma has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job. Undaunted, he uses his new-found employment to further his mission - and now he has a pirate costume and a hot-dog cart to do it with...

'A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities ... it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue'The New York Times

The Plot:

Ali: The plot is perfect for this book and these characters. While I’m oversimplifying a bit, it’s essentially all about Ignatius (a thirty-something who lives with his mom) getting a job. The hoops he jumps through (and the hoops he makes everyone around him jump through) are positively ridiculous and wonderfully hilarious. 

Cole: With this book, there is not so much a plot as a series of seriously hilarious mis-adventures starring the great oaf of a man-child, Ignatius Reilly. The picaresque quality makes it a great casual read to drop in on (like your favorite sitcom, it doesn’t matter if you remember what happened last week), but it doesn’t have the momentum to pull you strongly through to the end. I loved every minute of reading it, but there wasn’t the urgency to stay up all night to see what happens – I know what will happen: Ignatius will be terrible and hilarious and everything will end up badly.

The Characters: 

Ali: These characters are the bread and butter of this book, and they are HILARIOUSLY STUPID. The book title is pretty dang accurate. Basically all of the characters in this book are atrocious, but conveyed in such a way as to make you laugh out loud non-stop. Ignatius, of course, was my favorite character, because of how incredibly absurd he was. Plus, his views on life are top-notch (LOL).

Cole: Like Ali said, the characters make this novel. Toole must have had some armchair-expertise of psychology (like the cringe worthy Mrs. Levy), because he creates characters who are pathological to the core. Of particular note is the aforementioned Ignatius, an Oedipal man-sized infant monster, and his ineffectual mother who finally works up the backbone (after 30 years) to demand Ignatius get a job. There is a host of equally kooky characters, and Burma Jones, the black porter who seems to be the only sane one in the French Quarter. Jones, a black man in 1960’s New Orleans, is on society’s lowest rungs, however, and is resigned to quietly (and hilariously) observe and sabotage the fools surrounding him.

The Writing: 

Ali: Such a well-written novel! I loved Toole’s succinct descriptive writing. He was masterful at conveying scenes with all the perfect details- from the dingy yellow lighting to the oil-stains on the carpet. The whole book feels like you’re in a greasy gas-station eatery, which I imagine is precisely how Toole wanted you to feel.

Cole: Toole captures the insane mind of a man like Ignatius perfectly, and the passages of Ignatius’ writing are laugh-out-loud absurd. The dialogue is evocative of the Big Easy and frequently hilarious, and Toole’s descriptions and metaphors are very often original. 

The Ending: 

Ali: Ignatius’ ending is exactly what I hoped for! I only wish Toole had given us a sequel!

ColeThe ending is perfectly fitting, but a little infuriating (in a good way).


Ali & Cole AGREE: 

The bottom line: This book is HILARIOUS and you should definitely read it if you’re in the mood for a sometimes slapstick, sometimes satirical comedy.

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