The first person to recommend “A Confederacy of Dunces” to me was Dermot O’Dwyer, a literature and English teacher at Allen Hancock College in Santa Maria. He thought it was a brilliant book. Mr. O’Dwyer was an Irish man and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He shared my love of James Joyce and Anthony Burgess (having actually met Burgess once at a Bloomsday celebration in Dublin). Mr. O’Dwyer taught me a lot about writing and pushed me to improve. He was a very good teacher (I believe he is retired now and living again in Ireland).
Since that recommendation, other friends and professors have told me to read the book. The latest recommendation came from Ken Layne.
I’ve owned a copy of the book for at least 15 years, but until last week, I had not heeded all of this good advice.
And it was good advice. It’s a very fun book. John Kennedy Toole certainly was a crisp and clear writer with strong powers of observation, which you need to truly capture the absurd realities of human behavior. The story, of course, seems fantastic, but there is real pathos behind every misadventure of Ignatius Reilly. And Reilly is so finally drawn that you don’t know whether to be repulsed by him or root for his ultimate triumph. He is at once a tragic figure (i.e., an Othello or Hamlet) and a pathetic character.
I don’t want to give away any of the plot to those who haven’t read it, but one thing I love in really good novels is the ability of the author to create a world of seemingly desperate events and people and leaving you guessing for most of the book as to how all of this fits together. Toole is stunning in his ability to weave together an incredibly complex plot. Even if the book wasn’t wickedly funny, it would be worth reading just to enjoy Toole’s plotting mastery.