Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Ignatius Reilly is an obese man in his thirties who lives with his mother in New Orleans.   His mother is struggling financially, while the well-educated Ignatius overeats and writes in his notebooks, from which long and painful passages are occasionally reproduced in the novel.  Pressured by his mother to get a job, he stumbles into a clerical position with a pants manufacturer, where he basically does nothing useful and files important documents in the trashcan.  After creating a shambles of the office, he moves on to a job as a hotdog vendor, but he routinely eats more product than he sells.  All of this buffoonery is supposed to be funny and satirical, I suppose, but I found it to be just plain silly.  Ignatius is a cartoonish character whose adventures did not interest me much.  On the other hand, the lives of his mother, her bowling friends, an inept cop, and a vagrant named Jones filled the pages with material that was at least mildly entertaining and afforded me a welcome break from the distasteful Ignatius.  In fact, Jones’s dialog, was probably the most fascinating aspect of the book for me.  The author’s phonetic spelling of Jones’s mispronunciations struck my ear in such a way that I could mentally hear him, loud and clear.  Mostly, Jones just drops final consonants, but some mispronunciations persist today, and this book was written in 1963.  One other character deserves a mention, and that’s Myrna, Ignatius’s gal pal from college, who is now an advocate for social change in New York.  Their correspondence indicates that Ignatius lives to one-up her, while she seems to see Ignatius as a sort of project, even offering him a theatre role as a means of giving him purpose.  Now, who is the true genius in the novel, surrounded by “a confederacy of dunces”?  Ignatius out-dunces all the other dunces, with the possible exception of the people who hired him.

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