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A Confederacy of Dunces (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

John Kennedy Toole , Walker Percy
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Mar 2000 Penguin Modern Classics

John Kennedy Toole's hilarious satire, A Confederacy of Dunces is a Don Quixote for the modern age, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes a foreword by Walker Percy.

Never published during his lifetime, John Kennedy Toole's masterful comic novel takes its title, as well asfrom Jonathan Swift A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. The ordinary folk of New Orleans seem to think he is unhinged. Ignatius ignores them, heaving his vast bulk through the city's fleshpots in a noble crusade against vice, modernity and ignorance. But his momma has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job. Undaunted, he uses his new-found employment to further his mission - and now he has a pirate costume and a hot-dog cart to do it with...

John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969) was born in New Orleans. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son's book was eventually published and found the audience it deserved, winning the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His long-suppressed novel The Neon Bible, written when he was only sixteen, was eventually published as well.

If you enjoyed A Confederacy of Dunces, you might like Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities ... it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue'

The New York Times

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (30 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182865
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

It's been hailed as a masterpiece and reviled as trash, but A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole has never been lightly dismissed. By creating Ignatius J. Reilly, a bigger-than-life bag of wind stuffed with some of the most comically outrageous and disturbingly insightful opinions ever put to paper, Toole made an indelible mark on the landscape of American literature--a feat recognized with the posthumous publication of this novel, followed by a Pulitzer Prize. Forced to wade the lower depths of New Orleans society, the gargantuan Ignatius, his poor mother in tow, takes us on a tour de force through the back alleys and juke joints of the French Quarter of New Orleans as he implores the gods, railing against the hypocrisy of contemporary politics and the crushing weight of late capitalism. "The luminous years ... dimmed into dross; Fortuna's wheel had turned ... Having once been so high, humanity fell so low. What had once been dedicated to the soul was now dedicated to the sale." Toole's suicide at 32 silenced a uniquely promising literary voice, denying his critics and fans the opportunity to determine whether his talent was a flash in the pan or a first spark of genius. Read A Confederacy of Dunces and you'll no doubt have formed your own inflexible opinion, which you'll defend tenaciously against all reason. --George Laney, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"What a delight, what a roaring, rollicking, footstomping wonder this book is. I laughed until my sides ached, and then I laughed on."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
In 'A Confederacy..' Toole created a masterpiece of contemporary writing.Set in the the tense air of 60's New Orleans ,the storyline weaves to and fro among Toole's motley cru cast of pornographers, bureacrats and "communiss" with a cold,honest yet human eye."A Confederacy Of Dunces" stole my undivided attention for all 400 pages;I could'nt stop from giggling at the unfathomable situations in which Ignatius J. Reilly found himself and yet I sighed with delight on reading the climax, one which does total justice to the excellence of the novel.But the book's greatest achievement is Reilly himself.A marvellous orator with a repulsive appearance, a slob and a shameless social critic, Reilly's presence in the novel is simply immense, literally and metaphorically. He shall go down as one of the great characters of 20th century literature."A Confederacy Of Dunces" stands tall above all the rest.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars perspiring 7 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Ignatius Reilly is a character never before encountered in literature. The abonamal giant disgusts, humours and challenges the reader at every turn.His repulsion of modern society is frightfully understandable and I was horrified to find myself agreeing with him on many points. Reilly is support by a fantastic medley of well drawn out, scene stealing characters of 1960's New Orleans. John Kennedy Toole has produced with out a doubt, in my mind, one of the finest books ever written. How I wish I could be there in New Orleans and witness the carnage Ignatius leaves in his wake at first hand.
Disturbingly insightful, frantically funny and easily believable. Confederancy of Dunces deserves far more prominent place at the grand table of literature. Igantius Reilly is the ultimate anti hero. Loved it.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Literary Equivalent of Marmite 15 April 2004
By jacr100 VINE VOICE
If anyone is confused by that title, I’d better explain: I’ve been pondering why the majority of previous reviewers have either loved or hated this book. I think one reason is that you have to really engage with the character of Ignatius J. Reilly in order to expose the funny side of the novel. Admittedly his lofty sense of self-importance and heedless misanthropy won’t make this easy, not forgetting his predilection for hot dogs, burping, etc; but if you bear with him, the scorn he pours forth on virtually everyone he comes into contact with does start to make you chuckle, particularly since his anachronistic language and imaginative insults sound positively alien amidst the casual slang of his New Orleans acquaintances.
There are some genuinely funny moments, and the storyline is structured along the lines of classical farce drama, with the unfortunate Ignatius spiralling downwards into an ever more precarious position, both socially and financially. Not that he cares, mind you – he has only entered the world of work temporarily and under coercive pressure from his mother, biding his time until his great social commentary modelled on the philosophy of Boethius propels him to prominence. I agree with one other reviewer that it is this latter project that makes the book a little turgid at times, when Ignatius casts down pages of vitriolic invective in his diary. These sections aren’t boring, but neither are they that funny, and the reader might be forgiven for skipping them to get back to Ignatius loudly criticising the latest film, or condescendingly mocking whomever he encounters that day.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute ripper... 11 Aug 2000
One of the most humorous books you will ever read - spent all day at work wanting to get back to the book. Characters sublime, setting brilliant and the plot rolls along like a bus driving through a cardboard box factory.
Look out for Jones - Ooooeee, he ain't no vagran cawmniss. Just buy it, you won't go wrong.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Choose Your Reading Times Carefully 10 Jun 2009
It's true, many of the reviews on amazon are rated too highly, like anything we've come to like for whatever reason is by default given 5 stars. From a technical standpoint this novel deserves 4 stars, but the reason I have to give it 5 is because ever since I first read it about 10 years ago, when I go into bookshops now with the intent of finding a book that will make me laugh, I walk in with my shoulders slumped and my feet scuffling along the foor in full knowledge that I'll never find anything as funny as The Confederacy of Dunces.

Ok, some people will not find it funny no matter how hard they try - I mean, I just don't get how something like the comedy show, Little Britian, could ever become so popular. But I do think the majority of readers out there who want more than the latest Ben Elton novel or have already read Catch 22, won't just laugh at the way Ignatius J Reilly sees and interacts with the world, but will laugh so hard that you'll have to keep closing the book for a few seconds just to gain back your senses.

I've lent out and given away a lot of books to friends over the years, but none have done the rounds as much as this one.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic bafoonery! 19 April 2001
By A Customer
Without a doubt this book, much like Toole's other work 'Neon Bible', has not had the press and success deserved.
It should be revered as a modern classic.
Following the misunderstood outlandish genius of Ignatius J Reilly as he stirs and shakes The Big Easy the book paints a wonderfully clear comic picture.
I started reading this whilst in New Orleans and whilst on the jubilee line back in London continued reading it, reliving my own experiences of the French Quarter through the excellent descriptive style.
I would recommend this to all, but would also recommend a trip to Louisianna too to help understand just who and what we are reading about
10/10 and more
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
brilliant read.
Published 27 days ago by J. Bloggs
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Hated the book... pretentious, over-bearing try-hard bookclub choice!! Doesn't help that the last 7 pages were missing either!!
Published 2 months ago by Yvonne & Phillip
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is a bit of a disappointment given all the hype that...
This book is a bit of a disappointment given all the hype that surrounds it. I guess it was a book of its time and I think I would have enjoyed it more back in the day. Read more
Published 2 months ago by TenTrees
1.0 out of 5 stars Uninteresting book not worth reading.
I read this book after I found it in a list of the funniest books ever written, but I have no idea why people like it at all; it not only isn't funny, it isn't even remotely... Read more
Published 3 months ago by eno
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Wit
My pal recommended this to me and I am so glad Amazon was able to provide it.
This is laugh outloud absurdity and it reminds me of a time and a place familiar to me and yet I... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Comrade X
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Together with The Hundred Year Old Man ... this has to be one of the funniest books I've ever read. One of those 'laugh out loud' books that you can't put down. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alison Cochrane
2.0 out of 5 stars Bludgeoned
This is one of those great American novels I've known the title of for 20+ years, but never known anything about other than it won the Pulitzer, and some people love it, and it's... Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Vibrant read!
If you enjoy characters who come alive on the page, you'll love this! and you'll remember them long after you've finished the book.
Published 6 months ago by cymraes
1.0 out of 5 stars American Humour
Can't stand the book. Who is really interested in a farting, belching, only interested in his "valve", fat slob of a man? Read more
Published 6 months ago by Marianna Lutyens
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