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A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole (Grove Press: $8.95)

June 25, 1989

Toole completed "Confederacy" shortly before committing suicide in 1969, and his mother spent the next seven years trying to find a publisher. Her efforts were vindicated when it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1976.

The central character of this surprisingly assured first novel is the self-styled genius, Ignatius Reilly, who dwells in arrogance as a monk in piety. From the heights of his moral indignation, he alternately decries the foibles of lesser mortals and bewails the condition of his overworked pyloric valve. Yet Toole manages to make Ignatius an entertaining and even an endearing figure, despite his unbridled pomposity.

Supported by a bizarre cast of secondary characters that includes an aspiring exotic danseuse, an eager but inept cop and a hip black janitor, Ignatius embarks on a series of improbable adventures that shatter the humid tranquillity of one of New Orleans' faded quarters.

In his Introduction, Walker Percy, who helped oversee the publication of "Confederacy," concludes: "The tragedy of the book is the tragedy of the author--his suicide in 1969 at the age of thirty-two. Another tragedy is the body of work we have been denied."

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