Terri's Cellar Door

Stuff that happens to me, Terri.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces

So, today it snowed and class was cancelled which was fine with me, considering how much I try to avoid class anyway. So, I got to spend the day the way I enjoy the most: sitting in my room, on the Internet, listening to music, eating Babybel cheese. Anyway, so I thought I was do something constructive and finally write that book review that I've been telling you about. It's not quite as simple as that, so I'd better do some explaining. About a year ago, my (then) boyfriend told me about this book called a Confederacy of Dunces, which he claimed was one of the greatest books of the 21st century. I'm a reader, so I thought, hey, maybe I'll give it a chance. Fast forward, we broke up and I kinda forgot about the book, and even if I wanted to read it, I doubt I could have even started it without thinking about him, which would have just made it a bad read. So, much later, I'm reading online about the 50 books you have to read before you die. Please don't ask me to find the link, I couldn't if I wanted to. Anyway, this book was on there, and wonder of wonders, we had it in our school library, so check it out, I did, and began to read. I'll offer you a short synopsis before I begin with the actual review, but you should know in the vein of full disclosure that I did not finish the whole book. I finished more than 2/3's and decided that was more than enough to write my review. This is a long book. The edition that I had clocked in at over 400 pages, with small font. I've read longer books, I've read worse books, just not all in the same package. Well, maybe not worse, but that comes later.

So, anyway, Confederacy of Dunces was written by John Kennedy Toole, who committed suicide before the book was published. This lends a rather mystical feel to the whole thing (for other people), and then they start thinking that he must have been a misunderstood genius, who was under appreciated in his time, therefore his work must be a masterpiece. Anyway, this book is about the adventures of Ignatius Reilly, a truly insufferable man who spends his life whining about how terrible it is, and yet does nothing about it. Ignatius is spoiled, lazy, and slightly disturbing. He cares for no one, and nothing other than feeding himself, and pleasuring himself in truly disgusting ways. He might just be the most unattractive, unappealing and downright annoying main character that I've ever heard of. It's really my hatred of Ignatius that propelled me through the part of this book that I did finish. I kept hoping that his mother would flip out on him, or somebody would, I dunno, shoot him. Speaking of his mother, who is a saint (or an idiot) by my estimation, he lives with her. And mooches off of her, and basically treats her like trash. There is nothing redeemable about their relationship. So, one day Ignatius has to get a job and because he has no marketable skills (having gone to school for Medieval Romance, or some such nonsense), he bounces around from job to job, being lame the whole story through. There are a couple of side stories running, one with a black man who speaks in a 'dialect' the whole story, and another (which was the only part of the story that I actually found the least bit humorous) with an old lady who works at the fictional Levy Pants and desperately wants to retire. So, you can imagine the point I'm trying to get to: this is a terrible book. For something that's supposed to be a laugh riot, I can only think of a handful of times when I thought something was the least bit funny, and none of those moments had anything to do with the terrible Ignatius. I think that Toole's main problem was making Ignatius so horrible. I couldn't have any sympathy or feeling for a grown man who screeches every time something doesn't go his way, and who treats his mother with such disdain. This is a character who has absolutely no redeemable qualities whatsoever. Even then, you could use a character like Ignatius in a way that would at least bring him some shame that he would refuse to admit, though the audience could share a laugh about him. Unfortunately, there is no point where Ignatius gets his comeuppance, and no, I didn't read the entire book, but 2/3's is certainly too much time to spend with a person like Ignatius and not have any satisfaction.

You should know something about me: When I start a book, I finish it. I have never not finished a book, no matter if it takes me two hours, two days, or two years. I've read some pretty terrible books, and yet, I plow ahead, and finish the durn thing. There was nothing I could do for this book. Even with all my willpower (which is not a huge factor), the author has to give me something to latch onto, so that I can want to find out what happens in the end. The only way I could find any peace is if Ignatius had died, and I've read the final pages, that does not happen. The pace is furiously slow, the characters unimaginative, and the protagonist, a terrible human being. I think sometimes people get so wrapped up in the hype surrounding a book, the want to read it and be on the 'in' crowd who 'get' the joke. I've never been one to follow the crowd (unless I wanted to), and am not afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. So, to finish this off with a score that's easily digestible, I've created a new system to score books. 10 is the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and almost any book by Agatha Christie featuring her detective Hercule Poirot; and 0 being terrible beyond belief:

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole receives a 0.5

*Yes, it was that bad. I gave it the .5 for Miss Trixie.


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