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A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces

Overview
A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel
Picaresque novel
The picaresque novel is a popular sub-genre of prose fiction which is usually satirical and depicts, in realistic and often humorous detail, the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society...

 written by John Kennedy Toole
John Kennedy Toole
John Kennedy Toole was an American novelist from New Orleans, Louisiana, best-known for his posthumously published novel A Confederacy of Dunces. He also wrote The Neon Bible. Although several people in the literary world felt his writing skills were praiseworthy, Toole's novels were rejected...

, published by LSU Press
Louisiana State University Press
The Louisiana State University Press is a nonprofit book publisher and an academic unit of Louisiana State University. Founded in 1935, the press publishes scholarly, general interest, and regional books as part of the university’s mission to disseminate knowledge and culture...

 in 1980
1980 in literature
The year 1980 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Marguerite Yourcenar becomes the first woman to be elected to the Académie française....

, 11 years after the author's suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy
Walker Percy
Walker Percy was an American Southern author whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is best known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962...

 (who also contributed a revealing foreword) and Toole's mother Thelma Toole, quickly becoming a cult classic
Cult following
A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a specific area of pop culture. A film, book, band, or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan base...

, and later a mainstream success. Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It originated as the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was awarded between 1918 and 1947.-1910s:...

 in 1981. It is now considered a canonical work of modern Southern literature
Southern literature
Southern literature is defined as American literature about the Southern United States or by writers from this region...

.

The title derives from the epigraph
Epigraph (literature)
In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component. The epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon, either to invite comparison or to enlist a conventional...

 by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

: "When a true genius
Genius
Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight....

 appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunce
Dunce
A dunce is a person incapable of learning.The word is derived from the name of the great Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus, also referred to as Doctor Subtillis, or "Subtle Doctor", whose works on logic, theology and philosophy were accepted textbooks in the universities from...

s are all in confederacy against him." (Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting
Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting
Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting is the title of a satirical essay by Jonathan Swift. It also has appeared under the title Thoughts on Various Subjects...

)

The story is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s.
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Encyclopedia
A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel
Picaresque novel
The picaresque novel is a popular sub-genre of prose fiction which is usually satirical and depicts, in realistic and often humorous detail, the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society...

 written by John Kennedy Toole
John Kennedy Toole
John Kennedy Toole was an American novelist from New Orleans, Louisiana, best-known for his posthumously published novel A Confederacy of Dunces. He also wrote The Neon Bible. Although several people in the literary world felt his writing skills were praiseworthy, Toole's novels were rejected...

, published by LSU Press
Louisiana State University Press
The Louisiana State University Press is a nonprofit book publisher and an academic unit of Louisiana State University. Founded in 1935, the press publishes scholarly, general interest, and regional books as part of the university’s mission to disseminate knowledge and culture...

 in 1980
1980 in literature
The year 1980 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Marguerite Yourcenar becomes the first woman to be elected to the Académie française....

, 11 years after the author's suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Percy
Walker Percy
Walker Percy was an American Southern author whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is best known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962...

 (who also contributed a revealing foreword) and Toole's mother Thelma Toole, quickly becoming a cult classic
Cult following
A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a specific area of pop culture. A film, book, band, or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan base...

, and later a mainstream success. Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It originated as the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was awarded between 1918 and 1947.-1910s:...

 in 1981. It is now considered a canonical work of modern Southern literature
Southern literature
Southern literature is defined as American literature about the Southern United States or by writers from this region...

.

The title derives from the epigraph
Epigraph (literature)
In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component. The epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon, either to invite comparison or to enlist a conventional...

 by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

: "When a true genius
Genius
Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight....

 appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunce
Dunce
A dunce is a person incapable of learning.The word is derived from the name of the great Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus, also referred to as Doctor Subtillis, or "Subtle Doctor", whose works on logic, theology and philosophy were accepted textbooks in the universities from...

s are all in confederacy against him." (Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting
Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting
Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting is the title of a satirical essay by Jonathan Swift. It also has appeared under the title Thoughts on Various Subjects...

)

The story is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s. The central character is Ignatius J. Reilly, an educated but slothful 30-year-old man still living with his mother in the city's Uptown neighborhood
Uptown New Orleans
Uptown is a section of New Orleans, Louisiana on the East Bank of the Mississippi River encompassing a number of neighborhoods between the French Quarter and the Jefferson Parish line. It remains an area of mixed residential and small commercial properties, with a wealth of 19th century architecture...

, who, due to an incident early in the book, must set out to get a job. In his quest for employment he has various adventures with colorful French Quarter
French Quarter
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. When New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the city was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré as it was known then...

 characters.

Ignatius J. Reilly


Ignatius Jacques Reilly is something of a modern Don Quixote—eccentric, idealistic, and creative, sometimes to the point of delusion. In his foreword to the book, Walker Percy describes Ignatius as a "slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy
Oliver Hardy
Oliver Hardy was an American comic actor famous as one half of Laurel and Hardy, the classic double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted nearly 30 years, from 1927 to 1955.-Early life:...

, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 rolled into one." He disdains modernity, particularly pop culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

. The disdain becomes his obsession: he goes to movies in order to mock their perversity and express his outrage with the contemporary world's lack of "theology and geometry." He prefers the scholastic philosophy
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, and the Early Medieval philosopher Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...

 in particular. However he also enjoys many modern comforts and conveniences, and is given to claiming that the rednecks of rural Louisiana hate all modern technology which they associate with progress. The workings of his pyloric valve play an important role in his life, reacting strongly to incidents in a fashion that he likens to Cassandra
Cassandra
In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Her beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy...

 in terms of prophetic significance.

Ignatius is of the mindset that he does not belong in the world and that his numerous failings are the work of some higher power. He continually refers to the goddess Fortuna
Fortuna (mythology)
Fortuna was the goddess of fortune and personification of luck in Roman religion. She might bring good luck or bad: she could be represented as veiled and blind, as in modern depictions of Justice, and came to represent life's capriciousness...

 as having spun him downwards on her wheel of luck. Ignatius loves to eat, and his masturbatory fantasies lead in strange directions. His mockery of obscene images is portrayed as a defensive posture to hide their titillating effect on him. Although considering himself to have an expansive and learned worldview, Ignatius has an aversion to ever leaving the town of his birth, and frequently bores friends and strangers with the story of his sole, abortive journey from New Orleans, a trip to Baton Rouge on a Greyhound Scenicruiser
PD-4501 Scenicruiser
The GMC PD-4501 Scenicruiser, manufactured exclusively for Greyhound Lines, was a three-axle monocoque two-level coach used by Greyhound from 1954 to the 1970s...

 bus, which Ignatius recounts as a traumatic ordeal of extreme horror.

Myrna Minkoff


Myrna Minkoff, referred to by Ignatius as "that minx", is a Jewish beatnik
Beatnik
Beatnik was a media stereotype of the 1950s and early 1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s and violent film images, along with a cartoonish depiction of the real-life people and the spiritual quest in Jack Kerouac's autobiographical...

 from New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, whom Ignatius met while she was in college in New Orleans. Though their political, social, religious, and personal orientations could hardly be more different, Myrna and Ignatius fascinate one another. The novel repeatedly refers to Myrna and Ignatius having engaged in tag-team attacks on the teachings of their college professors. For most of the novel she is seen only in the regular correspondence which the two sustain since her return to New York, a correspondence heavily weighted with sexual analysis on the part of Myrna and contempt for her apparent sacrilegious activity by Ignatius. Officially, they both deplore everything the other stands for. Though neither of them will admit it, their correspondence indicates that, though separated by half a continent, many of their actions are taken with the intention of impressing one another.

Irene Reilly


Mrs. Reilly has been widowed for 21 years. At first, she allows Ignatius his space and takes him where he needs to go, but throughout the course of the novel she learns to stand up for herself. She also has a drinking problem, most frequently indulging in muscatel, although Ignatius exaggerates that she is a raving, abusive drunk
Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

.

She falls for Claude Robichaux, a fairly well-off man with a railroad pension and rental properties. At the end of the novel she decides she will marry Claude. But first she agrees with Santa Battaglia (who has not only recently become Mrs. Reilly's new best friend, but also harbors an intense dislike for Ignatius) that Ignatius is insane and arranges to have him sent to a mental hospital
Mental Hospital
Mental hospital may refer to:*Psychiatric hospital*hospital in Nepal named Mental Hospital...

.

Other characters

  • Santa Battaglia is an elderly woman who becomes a friend of Mrs. Reilly's. The two meet through Santa's nephew, Patrolman Mancuso, and quickly become friends. She shows a marked disdain for Ignatius, suggesting that Mrs. Reilly force Ignatius to get a job and not put up with his antics. She attempts to set up Mrs. Reilly with Mr. Robichaux as a potential husband.
  • Claude Robichaux is the said potential new husband—an old man constantly on the lookout for any "communiss" (sic for Communists) who might infiltrate America, and who takes an interest in protecting Irene.
  • Angelo Mancuso is an inept police officer, the nephew of Santa Battaglia. After Mancuso makes several improper arrests, the sergeant in charge is angry with him, and he must somehow make a major bust to avoid being kicked off the force; he is reduced to wearing ridiculous disguises and spending time in the bus station toilets in order to arrest "suspicious characters".
  • Lana Lee runs a downscale French Quarter strip club
    Striptease
    A striptease is an erotic or exotic dance in which the performer gradually undresses, either partly or completely, in a seductive and sexually suggestive manner...

    , the "Night Of Joy." She employs Darlene and Jones and runs an illegal pornographic photo ring on the side.
  • George is Lana's high-school-aged partner in the pornography ring.
  • Darlene is the "Night Of Joy's" goodhearted but none-too-bright stripper who has a pet cockatoo
    Cockatoo
    A cockatoo is any of the 21 species belonging to the bird family Cacatuidae. Along with the Psittacidae and the Strigopidae , they make up the parrot order Psittaciformes . Placement of the cockatoos as a separate family is fairly undisputed, although many aspects of the other living lineages of...

    . It is Darlene's intention to better herself, moving up from getting the clients to buy watered-down drinks, to dancing and having an "exotic" routine involving her pet.
  • Burma Jones is the porter/janitor for the "Night Of Joy" who resentfully holds on to his job only because the police will arrest him for vagrancy
    Vagrancy (people)
    A vagrant is a person in poverty, who wanders from place to place without a home or regular employment or income.-Definition:A vagrant is "a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging;" vagrancy is the condition of such persons.-History:In...

     if he does not (an indignity not uncommon for African American
    African American
    African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

    s in the U.S. South in the Jim Crow
    Jim Crow laws
    The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly "separate but equal" status for black Americans...

     era). Most of the white
    White people
    White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

     characters tend to pay only peripheral attention to him, though his actions are central to the plot.
  • Mr. Clyde is the owner of Paradise Vendors, an old man frustrated with his hot dog vendor business and his vendors' growing disrepute, a situation not at all helped by Ignatius' absurd clothing.
  • Gus Levy is the Jewish owner of Levy Pants, a family business
    Family business
    A family business is a business in which one or more members of one or more families have a significant ownership interest and significant commitments toward the business’ overall well-being....

     in Bywater
    Bywater, New Orleans
    Bywater is a neighborhood of the city of New Orleans. A subdistrict of the Bywater District Area, its boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: Florida Avenue to the north, the Industrial Canal to the east, the Mississippi River to the south and Franklin Avenue Street to the west...

     whose best days seem gone. He prefers to visit Levy Pants as little as possible, as it reminds him of his father, from whom he inherited the business.
  • Mrs. Levy is Gus Levy's wife. Having taken (and failed) a correspondence course in psychology, she attempts to apply psychoanalytic
    Psychoanalysis
    Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

     principles to her husband and Miss Trixie. She also specializes in making her husband's life miserable, often blackmail
    Blackmail
    In common usage, blackmail is a crime involving threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats...

    ing him by threatening to show their two daughters the horrors to which Gus has supposedly exposed her.
  • Miss Trixie is an aged clerk at the Levy Pants office who suffers from senile dementia. Mrs. Levy thinks she's doing a good deed by keeping Miss Trixie employed, although Miss Trixie would rather retire. Moreover, Miss Trixie is a liability to the company and repeatedly demands a holiday turkey and ham, both of which were promised to her and not given.
  • Mr. Gonzalez is the office manager at Levy Pants, meek and skittish in demeanor, but fervently loyal to the company and a strong believer in its philosophy, if it indeed has one.
  • Dorian Greene is a flamboyant French Quarter homosexual who puts on elaborate parties for the subculture
    Subculture
    In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong.- Definition :...

    . Ignatius tries to recruit him and his "sodomite
    Sodomy
    Sodomy is an anal or other copulation-like act, especially between male persons or between a man and animal, and one who practices sodomy is a "sodomite"...

     friends" to infiltrate the army and thus "take down worldwide government" in his unsatisfying failure at eclipsing Myrna Minkoff's political endeavors.
  • Frieda Club, Betty Bumper, and Liz Steele are a trio of aggressive lesbian
    Lesbian
    Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality, or as an...

    s who run afoul of Ignatius, and who figure belligerently in the climactic French Quarter brawl.
  • Dr. Talc is a mediocre college professor at Tulane University
    Tulane University
    Tulane University is a private, nonsectarian research university located in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States...

     who had the misfortune of teaching Myrna and Ignatius in separate classes one semester. He still feels the effects years later.
  • Miss Annie is the disgruntled neighbor of Irene and Ignatius Reilly who professes a severe addiction to headache medication due to the Reillys' constantly noisy domestic quarrels.

Ignatius at the movies


Toole provides comical descriptions of two of the films Ignatius watches without naming them; they can be recognized as Billy Rose's Jumbo
Billy Rose's Jumbo (film)
Billy Rose's Jumbo is an American musical film produced by MGM in Panavision and Metrocolor, and starring Jimmy Durante, Doris Day, Martha Raye, and Stephen Boyd. The film was directed by Charles Walters and featured Busby Berkeley's choreography...

and That Touch of Mink
That Touch of Mink
That Touch of Mink is a 1962 romantic comedy starring Cary Grant and Doris Day. The film co-stars Gig Young, John Astin, Audrey Meadows, and Dick Sargent. In addition, baseball stars Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra make cameo appearances....

, both Doris Day
Doris Day
Doris Day is an American actress, singer and, since her retirement from show business, an animal rights activist. With an entertainment career that spanned through almost 50 years, Day started her career as a big band singer in 1939, but only began to be noticed after her first hit recording,...

 features released in 1962. In another passage, Ignatius declines to see another film, a "widely praised Swedish drama about a man who was losing his soul". This is most likely Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish director, writer and producer for film, stage and television. Described by Woody Allen as "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera", he is recognized as one of the most accomplished and...

's Winter Light
Winter Light
Winter Light is a 1962 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Bergman regulars Gunnar Björnstrand, Ingrid Thulin and Max von Sydow. The film follows Tomas Ericsson , pastor of a small rural Swedish church, as he deals with existential crisis and his...

, also released in 1962. In another passage, Irene Reilly recalls the night Ignatius was conceived: after she and her husband viewed Red Dust
Red Dust
Red Dust is an American 1932 romantic drama film directed by Victor Fleming. The picture is the second of six movies Clark Gable and Jean Harlow made together and was produced during the Pre-Code era of Hollywood...

, released in October 1932. This would place Ignatius' birth around July 1933, and since he is 30 in the novel, would place the story in 1963.

Confederacy and New Orleans


The book is famous for its rich depiction of New Orleans and the city's dialects, including Yat. Many locals and writers think that it is the best and most accurate depiction of the city in a work of fiction.

The city described in the novel differs in some ways from the actual New Orleans. The first chapter mentions the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

 setting over the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 at the foot of Canal Street
Canal Street
Canal Street may refer to:* Canal Street , England, UK* Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA* Canal Street , New York City, New York, USA...

. As this direction is to the south-east, this is clearly impossible in reality. Possibly this is a joke by Toole related to the fact that the area across the river is known as the "West Bank", despite the fact that because of the twists of the river it is actually to the south or east from parts of central New Orleans. Such details are not likely to be noticed by people who are not familiar with New Orleans.

A bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 statue
Statue
A statue is a sculpture in the round representing a person or persons, an animal, an idea or an event, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger...

 of Ignatius J. Reilly can be found under the clock
Clock
A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time. The word clock is derived ultimately from the Celtic words clagan and clocca meaning "bell". A silent instrument missing such a mechanism has traditionally been known as a timepiece...

 on the down-river side of the 800 block of Canal Street, New Orleans
Canal Street, New Orleans
Canal Street is a major thoroughfare in the city of New Orleans. Forming the upriver boundary of the city's oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter , it acted as the dividing line between the older French/Spanish Colonial-era city and the newer American Sector, today's Central Business District.The...

, the former site of the D.H. Holmes Department Store, now the Chateau Bourbon
Chateau Bourbon
Chateau Bourbon is a hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.On October 15, 1849, Daniel Henry Holmes established the D.H. Holmes department store, which went on to become a very significant part of New Orleans history. Situated on Canal Street for 140 years, the store became a French Quarter landmark,...

 Hotel. The statue mimics the opening scene: Ignatius waits for his mother under the D.H. Holmes clock, clutching a Werlein's shopping bag, dressed in a hunting cap, flannel
Flannel
Flannel is a soft woven fabric, of various fineness. Flannel was originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from either wool, cotton, or synthetic fibre. Flannel may be brushed to create extra softness or remain unbrushed. The brushing process is a mechanical process...

 shirt, baggy pants and scarf, 'studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste.' The statue is modeled on New Orleans actor John "Spud" McConnell
John McConnell (actor)
John "Spud" McConnell , is an American actor and radio personality based in New Orleans, Louisiana.McConnell is a character actor who has appeared in more than 40 films, ranging from obscure independent films to major cinematic release movies John "Spud" McConnell (born November 13, 1958), is an...

, who portrayed Ignatius in a stage version of the novel.

Various local businesses are mentioned in addition to D. H. Holmes, including Werlein's
P. P. Werlein
P. P. Werlein was an American music publisher based in New Orleans, Louisiana. At some point, the German-born Philip P. Werlein headed the music department at the Female Seminary of Clinton, Mississippi....

 Music Store and local cinemas such as the Prytania Theater. Some readers from elsewhere assume Ignatius's favorite soft drink, Dr. Nut
Dr. Nut
Dr. Nut was a soft drink produced by New Orleans-based World Bottling Company during the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Nut had a distinct almond flavor, similar to Amaretto liquor and bottles were characterized by their plain logo depicting a squirrel nibbling on a large nut.The drink was...

, to be fictitious, but it was an actual local soft drink brand of the era. The "Paradise Hot Dogs" vending carts are an easily recognized satire of those actually branded "Lucky Dogs".

Structure


The structure of Confederacy of Dunces reflects the structure of Ignatius's favorite book, Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy
Consolation of Philosophy
Consolation of Philosophy is a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, and is also the last great Western work that can be called Classical.-...

. Like Boethius' book, the Confederacy of Dunces is divided into chapters that are further divided into a varying number of subchapters. Key parts of some chapters are outside of the main narrative. In Consolation, sections of narrative prose alternate with metrical
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

 verse. In Confederacy, such narrative interludes vary more widely in form and include light verse
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, journal entries by Ignatius, and also letters between himself and Myrna. A copy of the Consolation of Philosophy within the narrative itself also becomes an explicit plot device
Plot device
A plot device is an object or character in a story whose sole purpose is to advance the plot of the story, or alternatively to overcome some difficulty in the plot....

 in several ways.

Certain aspects of this novel mirror author Toole's real-life experiences. For instance, Ignatius' two main jobs through the course of the novel are pants factory
Factory
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

 worker and hot dog
Hot dog
A hot dog is a sausage served in a sliced bun. It is very often garnished with mustard, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise, relish and/or sauerkraut.-History:...

 vendor. For a brief time after graduating from Tulane, author Toole worked at a pants factory. During free time, he spent days in New Orleans' French Quarter
French Quarter
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. When New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the city was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré as it was known then...

, where he helped a friend sell food from a stand. Post-college, Toole also lived with his mother, who was thought to be overprotective. However, in other aspects, the author was quite unlike his most famous character; Toole enjoyed travel, and was known for being neat and well dressed.

The difficult path to publication



As outlined in the introduction to a later revised edition, the book would never have been published if Toole's mother had not found a smeared carbon copy
Carbon copy
Carbon copying, abbreviated cc or c.c., is the technique of using carbon paper to produce one or more copies simultaneously during the creation of paper documents...

 of the manuscript left in the house following Toole's 1969 suicide at age 31. Thelma Toole was persistent and tried several different publishers to no avail.

Thelma repeatedly called Walker Percy
Walker Percy
Walker Percy was an American Southern author whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is best known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962...

, an author and college instructor at Loyola University New Orleans
Loyola University New Orleans
Loyola University New Orleans is a private, co-educational and Jesuit university located in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Originally established as Loyola College in 1904, the institution was chartered as a university in 1912. It bears the name of the Jesuit patron, Saint Ignatius of Loyola...

, demanding he read it. He initially resisted; however, as he recounts in the book's foreword:
"...the lady was persistent, and it somehow came to pass that she stood in my office handing me the hefty manuscript. There was no getting out of it; only one hope remained—that I could read a few pages and that they would be bad enough for me, in good conscience, to read no farther. Usually I can do just that. Indeed the first paragraph often suffices. My only fear was that this one might not be bad enough, or might be just good enough, so that I would have to keep reading.

In this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good."


The book was published by LSU Press
Louisiana State University Press
The Louisiana State University Press is a nonprofit book publisher and an academic unit of Louisiana State University. Founded in 1935, the press publishes scholarly, general interest, and regional books as part of the university’s mission to disseminate knowledge and culture...

 in 1980. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It originated as the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was awarded between 1918 and 1947.-1910s:...

 in 1981.

The original manuscript is currently at Tulane University
Tulane University
Tulane University is a private, nonsectarian research university located in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States...

 in New Orleans.

Film adaptations


There have been repeated attempts to turn the book into a film. In 1982, Harold Ramis
Harold Ramis
Harold Allen Ramis is an American actor, director, and writer, specializing in comedy. His best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters and Russell Ziskey in Stripes , both of which he also co-wrote...

 was to write and direct an adaptation, starring John Belushi
John Belushi
John Adam Belushi was an American comedian, actor, and musician, best known as one of the original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, The Star of the Films National Lampoon's Animal House and the The Blues Brothers and for fronting the American blues and soul...

 and Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor
Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor was an American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic, writer and MC. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed colorful vulgarities, and profanity, as well as racial epithets...

, but Belushi's death prevented this. Later, John Candy
John Candy
John Franklin Candy was a Canadian actor and comedian. He rose to fame as a member of the Toronto branch of The Second City and its related Second City Television series, and through his appearances in comedy films such as Stripes, Splash, Cool Runnings, The Great Outdoors, Spaceballs, and Uncle...

 and Chris Farley
Chris Farley
Christopher Crosby "Chris" Farley was an American comedian and actor. Farley was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre and cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1995....

 were touted for the lead, both of whom died at an early age, leading many to ascribe a curse
Curse
A curse is any expressed wish that some form of adversity or misfortune will befall or attach to some other entity—one or more persons, a place, or an object...

 to the role. It can be said, though, that since each of the three found fame playing overweight, eccentric and ultimately lovable characters in his day (the '70s, '80s and '90s respectively), that they all happened to simply fit the role quite well.

Director John Waters
John Waters (filmmaker)
John Samuel Waters, Jr. is an American filmmaker, actor, stand-up comedian, writer, journalist, visual artist, and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films...

 was interested in directing an adaption starring Divine as Ignatius when Divine was alive.

British performer and writer Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry
Stephen John Fry is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club. He first came to attention in the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue presentation "The Cellar Tapes", which also...

 was at one point commissioned to adapt Toole's book for the screen. He was sent to New Orleans by Paramount Studios in 1997 to get background for a screenplay adaptation.

John Goodman
John Goodman
John Stephen Goodman is an American film, television, and stage actor. He is best known for his role as Dan Conner on the television series Roseanne for which he won a Best Actor Golden Globe Award in 1993, and for appearances in the films of the Coen brothers, with prominent roles in Raising...

, a longtime resident of New Orleans, was slated to play Ignatius at one point.

A version adapted by Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh
Steven Andrew Soderbergh is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and an Academy Award-winning film director. He is best known for directing commercial Hollywood films like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and the remake of Ocean's Eleven, but he has also directed smaller less...

 and Scott Kramer, and slated to be directed by David Gordon Green
David Gordon Green
David Gordon Green is an American filmmaker. He has directed dramas such as George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Snow Angels, as well as the thriller Undertow, all of which he wrote or co-wrote...

, was scheduled for release in 2005. The film was to star Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell
John William "Will" Ferrell is an American comedian, impressionist, actor, and writer. Ferrell first established himself in the late 1990s as a cast member on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, and has subsequently starred in the comedy films Old School, Elf, Anchorman, Talladega...

 as Ignatius and Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin
Mary Jean "Lily" Tomlin is an American actress, comedienne, writer, and producer. Tomlin has been a major force in American comedy since the late 1960's when she began a career as a stand up comedian and became a featured performer on television's Laugh-in...

 as Ignatius's mother. A staged reading of the script took place at the 8th Nantucket Film Festival
Nantucket Film Festival
The Nantucket Film Festival is a film festival founded in 1996 to promote the cultural awareness and appreciation of the art of screenwriting in the world of cinema. Nantucket Film Festival screens a world-class program of independent, studio-produced, foreign, documentary, and short films in every...

, with Ferrell as Ignatius, Anne Meara
Anne Meara
Anne Meara is an American actress and comedian. She and Jerry Stiller were a prominent 1960s comedy team, appearing as Stiller and Meara, and are the parents of actor/comedian Ben and actress Amy Stiller.- Personal life :...

 as his mother, Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd
Paul Stephen Rudd is an American actor and screenwriter. He has primarily appeared in comedies, and is known for his roles in the films Clueless, Wet Hot American Summer, Anchorman, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Dinner for Schmucks, The Object of My...

 as Officer Mancuso, Kristen Johnston
Kristen Johnston
Kristen Johnston is an American stage, film, and television actress. She may be most famous for her role as Sally Solomon in the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun...

 as Lana Lee, Mos Def
Mos Def
Dante Terrell Smith is an American actor and Emcee known by the stage names Mos Def and Yasiin Bey. He started his hip hop career in a group called Urban Thermo Dynamics, after which he appeared on albums by Da Bush Babees and De La Soul. With Talib Kweli, he formed the duo Black Star, which...

 as Burma Jones, Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez
Rosa María "Rosie" Pérez is an American actress, dancer, choreographer, director and community activist.- Early life :...

 as Darlene, Olympia Dukakis
Olympia Dukakis
Olympia Dukakis is an American actress. In 1987, she won an Academy Award, BAFTA, and a Golden Globe for her performance in Moonstruck...

 as Santa Battaglia and Miss Trixie, Natasha Lyonne
Natasha Lyonne
-Early life:Lyonne was born Natasha Braunstein in Manhattan, New York City, the daughter of Yvette Lyonne, a product licensing consultant, and Aaron Braunstein, a native of Brooklyn who worked as a boxing promoter. Lyonne grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household...

 as Myrna, Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming, OBE is a Scottish stage, television and film actor, singer, writer, director, producer and author. His roles have included the Emcee in Cabaret, Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United, Mr. Elton in Emma, and Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids trilogy...

 as Dorian Green, John Shea
John Shea
John Victor Shea III is an American actor and director who has starred on stage, television and in film. He is best known for his role as Lex Luthor in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and also starred in the short lived 1990s TV series WIOU as Hank Zaret...

 as Gonzales, Jesse Eisenberg
Jesse Eisenberg
Jesse Adam Eisenberg is an American actor. He made his screen debut with the comedy-drama television series Get Real from 1999 to 2000...

 as George, John Conlon as Claude Robichaux, Jace Alexander
Jace Alexander
Jace Alexander is an American television director and former actor.-Biography:Alexander was born Jason Alexander in New York City, the only son of actress Jane Alexander and her first husband Robert, founder and former director of The Living Stage...

 as Bartender Ben, Celia Weston
Celia Weston
Celia Weston is an American actress of stage, film and television, and a character actress. Professionally, she may be best known for her role as Jolene Hunnicutt on Alice.-Life and career:...

 as Miss Annie, Miss Inez & Mrs. Levy, and Dan Hedaya
Dan Hedaya
Daniel G. “Dan” Hedaya is an American character actor. He often plays sleazy villains or uptight, wisecracking individuals; three of his best-known roles are as Italian Mafia boss Tony Costello in Wise Guys, a cuckolded husband in the Coen brothers' crime thriller Blood Simple, and the scheming...

 as Mr. Levy.

Various reasons are cited as to why the movie has yet to be filmed. They include: disorganization and lack of interest at Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

, the head of the Louisiana State Film Commission being murdered, and the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 on New Orleans. When asked why the film was never made, Will Ferrell has said it is a "mystery".
A 2007 Cracked.com
Cracked.com
Cracked.com is a humor website that was spun off the last attempt to revive Cracked magazine. It began in its current form in 2007.-Attempted relaunch of Cracked:...

article titled "The 10 Most Awesome Movies Hollywood Ever Killed" had the version starring Ferrell at #1, and paraphrased him saying that "
it's the movie everyone in Hollywood wants to make, but no one wants to finance".

Sources


  • Toole, John Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces, LSU Press. 1980 ISBN 0-8021-3020-8


Scholarly studies

  • Clark, William Bedford. "All Toole's children: A reading of A Confederacy of Dunces." Essays in Literature 14 (1987): 269-80.
  • Dunne, Sara L. "Moviegoing in the Modern Novel: Holden, Binx, Ignatius." Studies in Popular Culture 28.1 (2005): 37-47.
  • Kline, Michael. "Narrating the Grotesque: The Rhetoric of Humor in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Southern Quarterly 37.3-4 (1999): 283-91.
  • Leighton, H. Vernon. Evidence of influences on John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," including Geoffrey Chaucer. Version 2.0 (July 1, 2011).
  • Lowe, John. "The Carnival Voices of A Confederacy of Dunces." Louisiana Culture from the Colonial Era to Katrina. Ed. John Lowe. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State UP, 2008. 159-90.
  • McNeil, David. "A Confederacy of Dunces as Reverse Satire: The American Subgenre." Mississippi Quarterly 38 (1984): 33-47.
  • Palumbo, Carmine D. "John Kennedy Toole and His Confederacy of Dunces." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 10 (1995): 59-77.
  • Patteson, Richard F. and Thomas Sauret. "The Consolation of Illusion: John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Texas Review 4.1-2 (1983): 77-87.
  • Pugh, Tison. "'It's Prolly Fulla Dirty Stories': Masturbatory Allegory and Queer Medievalism in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Studies in Medievalism 15 (2006): 77-100.
  • Rudnicki, Robert. "Euphues and the Anatomy of Influence: John Lyly, Harold Bloom, James Olney, and the Construction of John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius." Mississippi Quarterly 62.1-2 (2009): 281-302.
  • Simmons, Jonathan. "Ignatius Reilly and the Concept of the Grotesque in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Mississippi Quarterly 43.1 (1989): 33-43.
  • Simon, Richard K. "John Kennedy Toole and Walker Percy: Fiction and Repetition in A Confederacy of Dunces." Texas Studies in Literature & Language 36.1 (1994): 99-116.
  • Zaenker, Karl A. "Hrotsvit and the Moderns: Her Impact on John Kennedy Toole and Peter Hacks." Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: Rara Avis in Saxonia? Ed. Katharina M. Wilson. Ann Arbor, MI: Marc, 1987. 275-85.

External links