A Confederacy of Dunces

I just read a CRACKED.com piece on “The 10 Most Awesome Movies Hollywood Ever Killed”, and one of the movies that they mentioned was A Confederacy of Dunces. This book is frequently touted as one of the funniest books of all time, and while I definitely found it kind of funny… overall, it was pretty much an “eh” to me. Nowhere near as funny as Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. I haven’t even bothered to reread it. The characters weren’t all that great, nor was the dialogue or, frankly, the characterization. Is there something I’m missing? Should I go back and reread it in the light of some new information? I can’t help but feel like the book is hyped due in part to the author’s (personal) story, rather than his work. So, for people who love the book, what makes it wonderful in your eyes?

Ooops- double post.

It’s one of my favorite books- easily on the Top 5- but I think those who don’t like it simply have different taste from mine- tomato/tomahto. It really helps if you’ve been to New Orleans to have some really visceral knowledge of the heat/banana trees/Quarter characters/etc. he discusses, or if you’re a huge fan (as I am) of colloquial dialects because Toole is a master of these. I also like what I call “stir fry” novels, where different characters and situations are ‘cooked’ separately and then brought all together in the last chapters as this one did (Tom Wolfe’s Man in Full is another example though in a completely different voice).

My favorite parts are probably the extracts from his Journal of a Working Boy. I thought of the excerpt where he discusses how much he wishes he’d been a “large and terrifying Negro” “forever rubbing my ample thigh against the withered thighs of terrified while ladies on buses” [paraphrased] during the Bob Allen scandal. My fandom of the book really has nothing to do with Toole’s life (or lack of).

I’m glad it’s never been filmed because I just don’t think it would work. The last time it was in pre-production Ignatius was to be played by WILL $&(@#%#$ING FERRELL* in a production directed by Drew Barrymore (who was to play the pornographer), and that would truly be an abortion. John Belushi was being courted to star in it (how far along the project was varies upon report) and I think he probably would have been a great Iggie, and of today’s actors I think Philip Seymour Hoffman would be the best, but I think so much would be cut or altered that it wouldn’t work. (There is a musical version but I’ve never seen it and to my knowledge it’s only been produced by amateur groups and colleges.)

Anyway, I love Confederacy of Dunces and Harry Potter, and I hate Tolkien and Eugene O’Neill. There are many who are the reverse. It’s just matters of what makes us tick.

Well, those are exactly the reasons I loved the book. How can you not appreciate the characters (is there anyone else in all of literature like Ignatius J. Reilly) or the brilliant and faithful rendition of New Orleans speech?


Sure, there’s Falstaffian elements in Reilly’s character, but Reilly is not simply a modern-day Falstaff. He borrows just as much from, say, Don Quixote, but his character is much more complex than either of these two characterizations. It’s been a long time since I read the book, but Reilly’s character was really one without any direct progenitor, in my opinion.

I read it recently for the first time and was a little nonplussed by it, so I’m with the OP in not seeing how it knocks people’s socks off. A fine book for sure, but my be was not dazzled. Genius had not arrived fully formed for Toole, his prose is A1, exceptional for a first novel, but the book’s structure was a bit creaky for me.

The movie is a delicious prospect - you couldn’t get a more powerful character to drive a film than IGR - it would be a dream role for any grotesquely fat actor in holywood. You could even stick your neck out and cast Danny deVito as Ignatius’ valve. That said, Ignatius’ journey through the book doesn’t lend itself easily to the kind of films that get made nowadays - I don’t think filmgoers would know what to think of him. I fear it would likely be a let-down, and a certain commercial flop.

The story depends heavily on the setting - but now it would be a period piece. It would just be a reminder of what we’ve lost. After NO is rebuilt, and has its old funkiness back, maybe.

Falstaff is a drunkard and a practical joker, while Ignatius is prudish and a teetoaller, if I remember correctly. They’re both fat, I’ll grant you, but they really aren’t that similar. I think Don Quixote holds up better as a comparison.

After many years and many rereadings this book can still make me laugh out loud. Can’t explain why. I usually go for droll English humor. Just goes to show how personal and varied humor and our reactions to it can be.

Thanks a lot, iftheresaway. I just spent two hours laughing at stuff at that site. Like I really needed another Internet destination.

Same here - I cry from laughing at it, but it’s not because I know anything about NO or its denizens.

I am glad the Will Farrell version of the movie has been scrapped. I don’t get Will Farrell’s appeal at all.

Personally, I loved Ignatius’ combination of intelligence, misanthropy, erudition, social maladaption and geekiness. He would have been a great Doper. I also loved a lot of the other characters and how they responded to/talked about ITR in their own voices.

I think it’s a book that is really best appreciated after the second or third reading. It’s very rich and not everything really sinks in after the first reading.

I have to see if the library has a copy. Time for another rereading.

I picked up a secondhand paperback copy, and found it was (apparently) signed by the author’s mother. A lot of writers have committed suicide, but the fact that Toole killed himself at 31, and left the manuscript for A Confederacy of Dunces sitting around without having tried to get it published, is one of those occurrences that seems so unlikely that it’s hard to take in the tragedy of it. What else would he have done if he’d lived?


Yeah, but he would have pranced off in a huff within a week. No one is worthy of Ig!

I tried to read this in college, but had to stop after recogizing far too much of myself in the main character. Profoundly distressing. I’ve always meant to go back now that I’m in a much different place, and see if I have the same problem, but I’m worried about what the answer might be.

I don’t think that’s the case, though. It’s been a long time since I read this (and now I know what book I’ll be starting next!), but I seem to recall it taking place primarily in the Quarter, wasn’t it? From friends that are still living there, the quarter is pretty much untouched and in business. I know the Lucky Dog job was in the quarter, and Baton Rouge could probably stand in for New Orleans shots in many places.

I always wondered why John Goodman didn’t try to get this made, him being perfect for the part and a NO resident. I used to see him at my grocery store, but I never got brave enough to talk to him.

A fair amount of action in the book occurred in the FQ, but also in the Warehouse District, Uptown, and Carrollton.

Yes, the FQ didn’t get flooded, but neither did the Warehouse District, many parts of Uptown, and Carrollton. So there’s plenty of authentic venues to film should the film ever take place.

As for this:

I’ll just cringe in the corner and opine that Baton Rouge could most definitely **not ** stand in for New Orleans for any of the places.