Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Confederacy of Dunces

My story on the Ignatius J. Reilly statue yesterday had about seventy or so hits-much to my surprise. I forgot to tell you all why the hotel moved the statue in the first place: so the Mardi Gras people wouldn't kidnap him, or damage the statue in any way.

A Confederacy of Dunces is a hard sell to certain people who have lived in New Orleans for a while. They hear about Ignatius being a Lucky Dog vendor (actually, in the book, it's "Paradise Vendors"), about the mostly French Quarter setting, and they think it's any number of negative things. Consequently, they don't even bother to pick the book up and read the dust jacket. And then there's the Pulitzer Prize, which Dunces won for literature back in the seventies. For a lot of people, award winning books are anathema, sure proof that the plot probably sucks.

But it's a great read, one of the best books ever written in the twentieth century. The author, John Kennedy Toole, went to Tulane University and was a New Orleans native. He committed suicide in 1969, allegedly over the lack of interest in his book.

As it turned out, Dunces has sold millions of copies, and like The Blue Dog, has become an icon of New Orleans-and South Louisiana-culture.

When I went to UNO in 1982, I had to write a critique of the book, but truth be told, I didn't like it so much back then. I was barely twenty years old, and thought the plot was a little sleazy and hard to follow. Later, however, I discovered a new appreciation for the way Toole wrote the dialogue and scripted the many scenes. The ones with Miss Trixie are hilarious....

There are many, many critiques on-line about the book, and it's fairly easy to get the gist of what it's about.

I believe A Confederacy of Dunces is the literary version of a musical anthem. Find out for yourself! I hope you love it.

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