A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Ignatius J. Reilly is a madman. His hat is green, his stomach is bulging, and his mustache is black and often crumb-filled. He makes me laugh really, really hard. A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. So funny in fact, that, while I was always eager to read it, I usually had to put it down after a while because of abdominal exhaustion.

This is the story of Ignatius, a flatulent, disagreeable oaf (though oaf might be strong—he has read lots of the classics and speaks with great, raving, psychotic wit) that lives with his mother in a run down house on a run down street in New Orleans. He spends most of his time in his room, dealing with a few stomach issues and writing endless rants about the deplorable age he inhabits. Writing is his main activity, and though he strives for critical greatness and recognition, he is not above penning works that appeal to the ignorant masses to get his name out there (and make a buck or two). Unfortunately, due a chance encounter with a twitchy policeman, his mother gets a tad tipsy, backs her car into a building, and forces Ignatius to get a job in order to cover the damages. This seemingly minor event sends the story plunging into the deep end.

As you might expect, Ignatius is not cut out for the workforce. I could ramble on here, but the book must speak for itself. It is organized as a series of chronological anecdotes centered on Ignatius, but an oddly intertwined cast of characters find themselves sunk into the mix with him. The book keeps get funnier as he gets grumpier, more confused, and at times, irate. Ignatius doesn’t “say” much…he screams it, typically in the direction of his mother or anyone he deems more idiotic than himself (everyone).

What I liked most was the dialogue. Every character is perfectly done, and their interactions are priceless. I was not kidding when I said I had ab cramps. Read this book when you are alone and far from others, lest you be thought a hysteric.

I’ll leave you with this:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

Now go get a cheese dip yourself and be ready to snort some out your nose.

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