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A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Literature Dec 03 2012 · 179 views

Confederacy Dunces John Toole Book Review 2 Stars

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A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
ISBN: 0802130208
Publisher: Grove Press
Release Date: January 21st 1994
Rating: 2/5
Synopsis: Set in New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces outswifts Swift, one of whose essays gives the book its title. As its characters burst into life, they leave the region and literature forever changed by their presences – Ignatius and his mother; Miss Trixie, the octogenarian assistant accountant at Levy Pants; inept, wan Patrolman Mancuso; Darlene, the Bourbon Street stripper with a penchant for poultry; Jones, the jivecat in space-age dark glasses. Satire and farce animate A Confederacy of Dunces; tragic awareness ennobles it.
Review: (Review from [Book Reviewing Site])

 
I’m honestly not sure why this is considered such a great book by some people. The only reason that I finished it is that I had to for one of my college English classes, but otherwise I probably wouldn’t've (and I hate leaving books unfinished, even if they’re not very good). At almost no point in the story does the plot, characters, writing style or setting grip my attention. Ignatius, the main character, is perhaps slightly interesting at first, but it gets to the point where it’s just too ridiculous and frankly boring — it all gets old quick.

As I alluded to above, however, there were some parts toward the beginning where Ignatius was an interesting character. In fact, the book itself had some promise to it, but soon it was apparent that this book would be nothing more than mediocre at best.

This is also supposed to be an extremely funny book — I didn’t feel that. The only thing I felt was that Ignatius (and, every character, really) is just so ridiculous that it’s not believable. It’s not funny any more because you don’t believe that anyone could ever act like that. At least I don’t. While the characters are all distinctly different — something usually that is good — they are different to extremes. Whatever they are, they are that to the very extreme. And it really hurts the book.
 
Furthermore, it just epitomizes a lazy, whiny, and very un-funny main character. You’re not left laughing at Ignatius’ actions. You’re left wanting to slap him (and in a bad way -- not in the "author-did-a-good-job-making-you-hate-him" way, because he's supposed to be funny, even if he's not likable) because of his laziness, stupidity, or just overall annoying habits and mannerisms. Ignatius is not a fun, lovable character. And he’s not a despicable character in the good way, either — as in, some characters you’re meant to hate, they’re meant to annoy you, and if an author pulls that off, it’s a great feat. This, however, is not that either. What you have here is some weird medium where you think you’re supposed to like him and think he’s funny, yet you really hate him at the same time. Additionally, Ignatius is never really well-characterized. At the end of the novel I’m left with only the facts that he’s an extremely lazy, whiny, dependent man who wouldn’t last on his own for more than a week at best. And again, not in some funny or good way, but in a way that is just simply not entertaining at all. It's not just about the character being someone who's not likable, but it's about the fact that it tries too hard at humor, as if it was trying to prove its hilarity. There was almost none.
 
I’ve wrestled with whether or not to give this one star or two. One star doesn’t seem quite fair, as the book isn’t horrible, and the writing is by no means bad (just not all that enjoyable — but then again, not the least-enjoyable thing I’ve read, either). I’m kinda iffy on this whole star system in general — most of my 5 stars would actually be 4.5, because I believe that hardly any book is perfect and worth a perfect score. Yet 4 (or if you double it, 8/10 — a “B” if it were a college paper) is too low. So I ended up giving it a two — I didn’t like it, but it was -okay- (note to BZP members: This site's rating system says "I didn't like it" for one star, and "it was okay" for two stars -- hence my middle-ground).
 
Overall I just simply cannot highly recommend this book. It’s not horrible, no, but I definitely wouldn’t call it great or even good. John Kennedy Toole, while a promising author, took things too far every time. And it’s sad, really, because the idea behind this book could probably be something great, but it was simply taken way too far, exaggerated so much that the story started to lose credibility, leading to the ultimate dissatisfaction I felt with the book.
 
~ Velox

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