Explain A Confederacy of Dunces to me

Specifically, why is it considered grand literature? I read it for the first time recntly, and while it was enjoyable to read, I didn’t really get it. The best I can come up with is that throughout the book both Ignatius and the factory owner are portrayed in an unsympathetic light, and within the last few pages it is shown that their antagonists (Ingatius’ mother and the factory owner’s wife) are more to blame.

Is there anything more to the book than this?

It’s been a while, but isn’t it amazingly funny? That makes it grand in my, er, book.

I’m sure someone with a better memory will be along soon…

I look forward to hearing an explanation myself. I read it close to a decade ago on very high recommendation and found it tedious and unfunny.

Perhaps I can be enlightened about this…

Because John Kennedy Toole was already dead when mommy got his book published and that lends it some cachet that I don’t understand. I have tried twice and found it unreadable.

I know people who love it, too, but I join those of you who found it unfunny and unreadable. I keep thinking I should try again, but I tried twice already; if it takes three tries to enjoy a book, I’d rather spend my reading time on something I’ll enjoy the first time around.

It’s all in the dialogue. You can’t read this like a novel, even a conventional story-driven comic novel. The story ain’t much, the characterizations (except possibly for Ignatius) are one-dimensional, the action has a certain goofy absurdity to it but not much more, and the narration is weighed down with flat, matter-of-fact details about midcentury New Orleans. The best part (and it’s flat out great) is the voices.

“I’b godda bring you subbody.”
“You mean to tell me they put green makeup on Como’s lips?”
“Don’t feel blue, darlin’.” “‘Blue’? I am afraid that I never feel ‘blue’.”
“Oh Jesus, you bring me peace / When you keeping away them po-lice.”

I have not reread this book in 25 years, yet those lines stay with me. Maybe I was just an impressionable kid at the time, but.

By the time of its publication (the early 1980s), to say nothing of the time (the early 1960s) that it was written, the character types presented in the novel (Ignatius, his girlfriend the NYU student fully enmeshed in the sexual revolution, and, from the foreward again, “one black in whom Toole has achieved the near-impossible, a superb comic character of immense wit and resourcefulness without the least trace of Rastus minstrelry”), had largely remained unexplored (today we have Comic Book Guy). The humor fits fits nicely into what would have been considered “zany” humor in the Kennedy era (it lives in the same bizarre comic universe as John Guare’s play, “The House of Blue Leaves”), and is an excellent example thereof, with its carefully interwoven plot threads.

All this in a first novel.

The fact that the author killed himslef before writing anything else lends a touch of tragedy and pathos to the proceedings, but the novel stands on its own merits.

Either the humor is to your taste or it isn’t. I loved the hell out of it…

Second novel – check out “The Neon Bible” – a shorter and far more readable work.

Dunces is indeed brilliant, but it’s no treat for those who are not fond of that brand of character creation.