John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy of Dunces

51ixb8IOefLThere is a swirl of mystery and drama that follow this book and all of it is intriguing from the movie curse to the New Orleans history with Mr. Toole and his mother, Toole’s untimely suicide and his mother’s push to get this novel published, whether she changed in the ending to fit publishers demands and all sorts of issues this novel brings with it a certain type of hype. All of this goes into this review of this book, for this entry I cannot separate myself from the context in reading this book.

Drew finished this book before me. I think we actually picked up near the same time, but then I put it down because I was not sinking my teeth into this work as well as he was. Anyways, I eventually picked it back up. After I finished Mambo Kings which wasn’t an easy read for me, and then moving onto this bear of an undertaking was sort of jarring for me and hurt my appreciation of this novel. I just want to say all of this because I don’t want to demean this novel if I didn’t enjoy it as thoroughly as some other readers might have. I concede I probably missed something along the way. I will confess that the first couple of chapters were something unlike anything I have ever read and were for the most part a laugh riot. I have not read a lot of funny things, but I love to laugh and love all types of comedies, slapstick, satire, and many others, but after the first few chapters and some incidents throughout the rest of the novel, the humor is not sustained and what ensues in the weirdest story I have ever read. Ignatius is the most pitiful character I have ever interacted with and it was mostly just very uncomfortable reading it. When I finished the novel, I had no idea why Toole ever wrote this. I just didn’t get it I guess. I feel like Toole is such a masterful writer that I didn’t get what he was laying down at all, and he is somewhere scauffing at this blog post. I felt for his protagonist, and related to him somewhat for being so painfully socially awkward, getting himself into situations by way overthinking everything, making bad situations worse and feeling totally unequipped for this life and rather losing myself in fiction. All of this to say, I just didn’t understand why Toole wrote this novel. You come to the end and everything ends in a weird melodramatic victory for Ignatius, but do we believe he will change and actually get normal and function in society or at least Myra’s society. Anyways, this novel was written in a time and place, and I can’t get a handle not on Ignatius’s worldview but even Toole’s what does he condone are we to laugh at Ignatius or are we to side with him and scoff at late 1960’s New Orleans culture with gays and strippers running the streets. Anyways, I was very very confused by this novel, and finished it put it down and shook my head for a solid five minutes trying to wrestle with all of my own defeciancies at not being able to grasp the work in front of me.

If you feel up for the challenge, the words on the page make sense, they are written in English. The sentence and grammar make sense. The plot for the most part makes sense, things happen mostly naturally throughout. It is told in a straight forward timeline. The characters reactions and dialogue mostly also make sense. But grab for yourself themes, symbols, or any sort of meaning you want because I have no clue. I enjoyed the process of moving my eyes over the words if we call that reading, but understanding this book I did not do. So read it if you will, you may laugh but you may also leave shaking your head.

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