The height of literary comedy? I don’t know.
A Confederacy of Dunces follows the day-to-day lives of a cast of characters that all ultimately end up at the same place at the same time due to the ridiculous antics and poor choices of the main character, Ignatius.
Ignatius is a 30 year old hyper educated, egotistical and out-of-touch bum living on the good will of his retired mother in New Orleans in the early ‘60s. After his incessant back seat driving gets her into an accident with the side of a building, she forces Ignatius to go out and get a job in order to help her pay off the damages she owes the building manager.
We follow Ignatius through several attempts in which he completely and totally buffoons his way in and out of jobs faster than I change my socks, while simultaneously leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
This book is funny, as Toole is a brilliant master of words and his descriptions and commentary are often laugh-out-loud. But the dialog is grueling and often painful, especially any time Ignatius’ mother is part of the scene and Ignatius’ complete self-absorption tends to get un-comically over the top.
At the end of the day this was a perfectly respectable book, with decent character development, good description, and funny asides, but it was just that: respectable. I didn’t feel like I had wasted 300 pages of my life on reading it, but at the same time, I didn’t take much away from it aside from a sense of lingering disappointment that I hadn’t enjoyed it as much as I expected to.