A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
In A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole succeeds in writing one of the most repulsive, loathsome, pugnacious protagonists possibly in existence. Ignatius Reilly is 30-something years old, lazy, and considers himself to be above and apart from the absurdities of modern life and culture that he despises. To the constant remorse of his frazzled mother, Ignatius spends all his time at home writing a seemingly endless indictment of the chaos, lunacy, and bad taste of the modern age, which he sees as lacking “theology, geometry, taste and decency.” Until he’s forced to find a job, that is, and then the unleashing of his worldview causes trouble for a myriad of other interesting characters including a lousy undercover cop, a pants factory owner and his wife, a seedy bar proprietor, and a hot dog vendor in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
It took me a while to get into this book, which is often hailed as a great literary comic masterpiece, an epic farce. It is funny, and very clever, but I never did laugh aloud while reading it, and I’m a very expressive reader (friends have often told me that they can tell the tone of what I’m reading by my facial expressions and such). But something about the pace of the story really works; the reader is allowed just the right amount of time with each character and perspective, and I enjoyed seeing all the characters tidily brought together at the end of the book. It was rollicking good fun.
I must say, though, that I’m very glad to never have to hear about Ignatius Reilly’s belching or the opening and closing of his “valve” ever again. Gross.