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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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3.9 out of 5
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  • A Confederacy of Dunces

    Very different but, in my humble opinion, brilliant! Such a shame that talent of this nature was never recognised and this led him to take his own life. For one thing, this has been written for the start of a series, and what a series it could have been. Superb characters if sometimes, especially to start, a bit difficult to understand if you're not from New Orleans, but you can't help but grow into the book and eventually it's impossible to put down. Full credit to the publishers who eventually ran with this, and to the authors family who stuck with his belief even after his passing. Very highly recommended

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  • I would urge anyone to at least attempt to read

    There are two stories here, one in the book and one about the book. In his foreword, Walker Percy explains how the book came to be published some twelve years after the author’s suicide following depression at his inability to get the book published. In case you are interested, the title was derived from a quote by Jonathan Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” I must confess that I found the early chapters challenging. It was impossible to have any sympathy with the extremely vulgar central character, Ignatius Reilly who has no respect for anyone or anything, including social niceties, his long suffering mother and himself. The other challenge was the tiny font used in the paperback for extracts from Reilly’s own jottings. But somehow, sufficiently intrigued and as the story progressed, I found myself tuning in to John Kennedy Toole’s humour and attitude towards the world as viewed through Reilly’s eyes. One reason for continuing was the various side stories which included more pleasant and believable people. There were Mrs Reilly’s group of friends, intense Myrna the classic 1960’s revolutionary student and the excellent Jones, the struggling black club janitor. Some of his asides are hilarious. Indeed, as you read the book pay close attention to all the people you meet as most reappear in the dénouement which strung them all together. That ending also suggests further adventures for Reilly which sadly will never be recorded. I understand that A Confederacy of Dunces has achieved cult status from time to time and I can see why. I cannot recall anything quite like this book which is one that you will either love or hate. There will be no indifference. However, it does deserve a health warning. Toole wrote the book in the early 1960’s when life was not as politically correct as it is today. There are words and attitudes in this book which would not be acceptable if written now. As with most books, I was driven to the Internet for further research. For A Confederacy of Dunces it was Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy and the stringent Vagrancy Laws that existed at that time in most US states. A Confederacy of Dunces is a book that I would urge anyone to at least attempt to read. It will not always be comfortable or easy but you will not forget it. For reasons given above I winced a few times and subsequently, have reduced my award from five to four stars.

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