As one would expect from the title, the cast of this character-driven novel includes a plethora of imbeciles, crooks, and trainwrecks, but in the protagonist, Toole has created an iconic character who is one of the most outlandish, entertaining, and memorable ever.
Ignatius J. Reilly is lazy, incompetent, condescending, hypocritical, self-entitled, sensitive, dramatic, irascible, intelligent, delusional, self-righteous, judgmental, sadistic, pathetic, offensive, litigious, self-pitying, and sexually repressed. He’s a fat bastard – a glutton who you can almost hear getting fatter with the turn of each page - a sociopathic liar, and a self-styled crusader.
In short, he’s the perfect waddling disaster to construct a story around.
Taking a kind of masochistic pleasure in the ubiquitous insults to good taste and decency, he actively seeks them out to rail and rage against. While probably not the healthiest of activities, it makes for many a laugh-out-loud moment and I can personally relate as for some reason I am compelled to continually watch shitty Japanese TV dramas while hurling insults at the TV and demanding that any and all people involved commit seppuku.
Constantly irritated by a perceived lack of theology and geometry in the present day (late 1960s), Ignatius has taken to keeping a journal – when he is able muster the motivation – which he considers to be a critical work of great brilliance that will serve as an indictment against the modern era. Further, as the story progresses, he sets his sights on loftier and loftier goals climaxing in an idea to save the world through, without giving anything away, a surprising inventiveness.
A Confederacy of Dunces excels in all three areas that are key to a quality comedic novel.
#1) It is funny. There are many laugh-out-loud moments.
#2) It is well-written. Toole knows how to turn a phrase and adeptly portrays intelligence, idiocy, and everything in between.
#3) It provides food for thought. There is much to reflect on, speculate, and discuss.
Having said that, a major flaw of this book is that it is a cock tease. The ending leaves you wanting to read the next misadventure, an impossibility given that Toole offed himself* before the book found a publisher (thanks Mama Toole for all your posthumous work!). So we are forced to sate ourselves by giving it a second read. But I believe without a doubt that the second time through will be even better than the first. 5 Pearls!
*For the love of God, Japanese TV Hacks, if someone with as much talent as Toole killed himself, why have you not yet plunged a kitchen knife into your stomach?! I’ll wait.