A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), John Kennedy Toole

200px-Confederacy_of_dunces_cover The Story opens with a quote from Jonathon 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.”

Brilliant quote that whispered in the back of my mind throughout the entirety of the story.

If Ignatius J. Reilly is the genius then his talent is really one of sloth. He is Uriah Heep without the drive or hard work, subverting and transforming everything until it revolves around him, but in a way that consumes the least amount of effort. Ignatius could be the most energy efficient genius ever.

This novel feels like an homage to the novels of the 60’s. The story reads very much like Catch-22, bold stereotypes written onto the canvas with broad strokes of color and exaggerated motion. And Ignatius feels very much like Dean Moriarty from On the Road, a lonely man living on the edge, but in Ignatius’s case, one seeking sameness instead of newness with all the power of his being.

Set in 1960’s New Orleans, it has a story that consistently surprises – I never knew how Ignatius’s self-involved bending of reality would manifest itself next. Definitely one of the novels that stayed with me as my subconscious sought, and continues to seek, the subtle clues to Toole’s true genius.

 

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