Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fortuna's Cycle Has Spun Me Downward



Tonight I am posting about my second favorite book at this point in my life. Yesterday I wrote about The Grandissimes a book focusing on the Creole culture in New Orleans. Tonight's book will be focusing on a much different element of New Orleans society: the lwo-lifes.

A Confederacy of Dunces was written by John Kennedy Toole, and Toole's story is one that needs to be introduced before Ignatius J. Reilly's story is introduced.

Not long after he finished witing this book Toole comitted suicide. After this tragedy Toole's mother brought this manuscript to Tulane Professor and award winning author Walker Percy to see if he could get it published. Percy grudgingly agreed to read the manuscript because he felt obliged to the grieving mother. He expected the manuscript to be as worthless as countless others he had read. He expected to be bored by page 10. When he found that he wasn't bored he was disappointed, and for a while he wouldn't admit he was ACTUALLY interested in the story. But he fell for it and hung on every single word Toole had written. By the time he had finished he had discovered something that wasn't the throwaway he thought it would be.... but instead it was a work of pure genius. Toole's work of genius one the Pulitzer in 1980.

Now to the story.... the book centers around one Ignatius J. Reilly a character of Shakespearean drama. I can honestly say without exaggerating that Ignatius may be the most ridiculous character in American literature. EVER. I like to exaggerate and use superlatives... but Ignatius is truly one of a kind. Grossly overweight, over educated, terribly lazy, disgustingly rude, a man with absurd prejudices and fears, and a fixation for the wonderfully named Myrna Minkoff. Every single one of his actions is equally egnigmatic and hilarious. His belief in Fortuna's wheel almost convinces the reader that it really might exist as he drags every other character in the book into his bizarre web.

This book is simply a beautiful piece of pure genius. Thanks to Toole I can't pass Constantinople Street in New Orleans or pass the state mental hospital in Mandeville without thinking about Ignatius and this book. Individual scenes like when Ignatius lies in bed and dreams of his dead dog or when Ignatius tries to run a political rally alone make this book a comedic success... but the whole thing together is sheer beauty and absurdity wrapped together. I can't recommend this enough. How is this not a movie?

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