A Confederacy of Dunces is a full-on comedic assault in the best possible sense. It bursts from the seams with the most absurdly uproarious episodes of complete ridiculousness and it never lets up. Not even for a second. With intersecting plots that criss-cross each other through New Orleans’ French Quarter, ACD follows a cast of hysterically memorable characters. Most of them can be described as down-troddened and seedy. Some are victims of circumstance. But what they all have in common is a connection with the book’s anti-hero, Ignatius J. Reilly.
And how should one describe Ignatius? A larger than life, lapsed Catholic? A devout follower of Boethius? An overly-educated ne’er do well? An aspiring writer who lacks ambition? A pathological liar with a brilliant mind? A dissenter of the highest magnitude? A hot dog vendor? All of these descriptors are quite true. Between Ignatius’ unpredictable “valve” and an increasingly toxic obsession with a college lady friend, destruction and hilarity follow his every movement. And no one is spared. We accompany Ignatius on his unusual adventures in day-to-day life, where he lays waste to everything and everyone in his path. Yes, there may be sword-fights in back alleys. Coup-d’etats have not been stricken from his alternate game plan. And occasionally we’re treated with spot-on social commentary from a character called Jones (likely the only individual in this story possessing that which resembles common sense).
A Confederacy of Dunces is funny beyond belief. And it challenges the reader in a unique way, by presenting characters that are polarizing. You either love them or hate them. And more than likely, you hate them. Yet they’re so darn entertaining in their distastefulness that you are obligated to see it through. Kinda like a John Waters film. Pepto Bismol and a long hot shower may be necessary afterwards.
ACD’s devastating humor and brilliant crafting are made all the more poignant by the fact that its creator, John Kennedy Toole, would never enjoy its successful reception. But on a positive note, he has left us with a work that is epically preposterous and will have generations of readers laughing their a**es off.