review – a confederacy of dunces

I suppose it is no coincidence that as I decide to read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces that the horrendous Louisiana oil gush would erupt in the Gulf of Mexico.  Both are perfect indictments of the incompetence performed by those around us who would have us believe that they should be in charge and know what they are doing. Like the wreckage of the oil gush, this work by John Kennedy Toole is an ingenious novel that illustrates the incompetence and corruption that will ceaselessly flow when initiated from a broken valve.

Toole’s work is a masterpiece of language and satire, centering, or perhaps orbiting around Ignatius J. Reilly, one of the more interestingly conceived characters I’ve ever read. A semi-educated giant of a slob in every sense imaginable and with no redeeming qualities, Ignatius waddles throughout the work, influencing typically for the worse anyone and everyone coming within his obese sphere of decay with his unfocused intellect. Unable to relate to anyone in New Orleans or society in general, Ignatius latently creates an intricate path of destruction in his avoidance of any type of employment while plotting social revolution on various fronts. That is, only after finding change for the movie theater. Ignatius is a contradiction of sloth and intellect, using his education to further his avoidance of reality. Whether forced to file the most menial of papers or selling hot dogs on the street, Ignatius would rather stage a worker revolt to have an afternoon off at the movies. Eerily similar in character to W.C. Fields, he is a bumbling spark that ignites the lesser incompetence and avarice all around him.

A Confederacy of Dunces is a work of slapstick in dialogue, where the patois of the New Orleans cops, office workers, exotic dancers, hot dog vendors and “vagrants” found throughout the city clashes with that of the “learned”.  Where whispers of lurking perverts or “comuniss” can get one arrested, the novel is a commentary on irrelevant intellectualism versus the reality of class struggle in the American South. As hilarious as the work is, it is a brilliant yet skewering glimpse at the plight of the so-called educated in everyday life, where people manipulate others into obeisance, even if they themselves don’t know to what end.

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