John Kennedy Toole’s hilarious satire, A Confederacy of Dunces is a Don Quixote for the modern age, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes a foreword by Walker Percy.
Never published during his lifetime, John Kennedy Toole’s masterful comic novel takes its title, as well asfrom Jonathan Swift A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern – this is Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. The ordinary folk of New Orleans seem to think he is unhinged. Ignatius ignores them, heaving his vast bulk through the city’s fleshpots in a noble crusade against vice, modernity and ignorance. But his momma has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job. Undaunted, he uses his new-found employment to further his mission – and now he has a pirate costume and a hot-dog cart to do it with…
John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969) was born in New Orleans. He received a master’s degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son’s book was eventually published and found the audience it deserved, winning the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His long-suppressed novel The Neon Bible, written when he was only sixteen, was eventually published as well.
If you enjoyed A Confederacy of Dunces, you might like Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
‘A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities … it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue’
The New York Times