A Confederacy of Dunces
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A Confederacy of Dunces

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John Kennedy Toole's hilarious satire, A Confederacy of Dunces is a Don Quixote for the modern age, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes a foreword by Walker Percy. Never published during his lifetime, John Kennedy Toole's masterful comic novel takes its title, as well asfrom Jonathan Swift 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...John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969) was born in New Orleans. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son's book was eventually published and found the audience it deserved, winning the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His long-suppressed novel The Neon Bible, written when he was only sixteen, was eventually published as well. If you enjoyed A Confederacy of Dunces, you might like Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities ...it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue' The New York Timesshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 18mm | 240g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • PENGUIN CLASSICS
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141182865
  • 9780141182865
  • 16,698

Review quote

"What a delight, what a roaring, rollicking, footstomping wonder this book is. I laughed until my sides ached, and then I laughed on."show more

Review Text

A masterpiece of character comedy finally published more than ten years after its writing, thanks to novelist Walker Percy - who furnishes a foreword. The character? Ignatius J. Reilly - reader of Boethius and drinker of bottle after bottle of Dr. Nut, virgin and lute player, writer-down of maledictions against contemporary society (in Big Chief writing tablets), owner of an erratic pyloric valve that gives him "bloat," wearer of desert boots, tweeds, and a green hunting cap with flaps. He's huge and obese, he lives with his widowed dipso mother in a ramshackle New Orleans half-house. Fastidious slob, rhetorical wreck in excellsis, Ignatius was once a grad student - but the trauma of a ride on a Greyhound Scenicruiser to Baton Rouge for a teaching-job interview has sworn him off work ever since. Mother Reilly, however, backs him into another try at employment. And his first job is at a hopeless clothing factory, Levy Pants, where the bookkeeper is senile ("Am I retired yet?" she every so often asks no one in particular) and where the black factory workers use the machines for home sewing, since no one actually buys Levy Pants. Shocked, Ignatius organizes a "Crusade for Moorish Dignity" to better the black workers' plight - and that's the end of that job. Next he's a hot-dog vendor, and then events take an indescribable spiraling turn involving pornographic pictures, a libel suit against Levy Pants, an old Bronx girlfriend of Ignatius', a woeful undercover cop, and a sleazy bar. (Here we meet grandly funny Burma Jones, an unwilling black janitor and sidewalk shill: "Hey! All you peoples draggin along here. Stop and come stick your ass on a Night of Joy stool. . . . Night of Joy got genuine color peoples workin below the minimal wage. Whoa! Guarantee plantation atmosphere, got cotton growin right on the stage right in front your eyeball, got a civil right worker gettin his ass beat up between show. Hey!") The novel can hardly contain burstingly funny Ignatius - and the mix of high and low comedy is almost stroboscopic: brilliant, relentless, delicious, perhaps even classic. Unfortunately, this is all we'll have of Toole's talent; he committed suicide in 1969, age 32, leaving only this astounding book. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About John Kennedy Toole

John Kennedy Toole was born in New Orleans in 1937. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son's book was eventually published and found the audience it deserved.show more
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