A Confederacy of Dunces: Creepy Goodreads Review
This is from my Goodreads review of A Confederacy of Dunces, a humor novel written by John Kennedy Toole.
I wasn’t sure where I stood (intellectually, that is–I was not standing, after all, but rather sitting in a chair) when I was winding my way through the beginning A Confederacy of Dunces, which follows the hopelessly erudite life of Ignatius J. Reilly, an overeducated hippopotamus of a man who lives in New Orleans and has a fondness for green caps, expressing disdain for consumerist culture, and flatulence. However, I decided to keep shoving through, and I’m very glad I did.
This book isn’t chock full of brilliant, absurdly surreal and surprising lines like a Douglas Adams book–rather, the humor comes from the absurdity of its characters and their situations. John Kennedy Toole weaves a rich narrative of subjectivity, running between a multitude of different characters, each with their own motivations. Whether it’s Ignatius, trying to figure out how to destroy his arch-pseud-nemesis-girlfriend-penpal Myrna Minkoff, the overly enthusiastic, sex-positive social protestor, or his mother trying to find love and a way to pay off an overbearing debt caused by crashing her car into a building, the characters all have incredibly distinct personalities that seem like they wouldn’t work well together at all–and they don’t, which is the beauty of the thing.
I’ve only mentioned three characters thus far, but the scope characters book is wide enough to the point that you wonder how on earth these characters relate to each other (an African American Jones who is referred to constantly only by the massive sunglasses he wears and the clouds of smoke he puffs nonstop seeks to get gainful employment to avoid being arraigned by police as a vagrant; a poor police officer Mancuso is forced to wear various costumes and threatened to be kicked off the force unless he can bring a “suspicious character” in; a textile factory Levy Pants owner wants to be free of his wife who is set on convincing his daughters that he is completely incompetent; Doriane Green, flamboyant party host who just wants to have a good time, and many, many more)–yet by the end of the book and even in the ensuing denouement, everything becomes clear in a beautifully absurd and ridiculous way.
Some readers may have trouble with the initial drudgery that is becoming acclimated with Ignatius’ literally medieval-aged thoughts (he thoroughly enjoys Boetius and hails Fortuna, goddess of the wheel of fortune) and the mundanity of his mother and friends’ banal small talk, but eventually these things become sublime in their satire. I did not find myself laughing out loud constantly like others have, but I thoroughly enjoyed the read regardless and would recommend this book to anyone who has a love for a bit of smart satire.