Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Confederancy of Dunces

In my year off in-between school and poly became involved in a voluntary work project living in Worcester which involved doing 2 days on and 2 days off. This did mean that I had quite a bit of time on my hands but not much money (the CSV programme paid little more than unemployment benefit but then the who le point was that it was voluntary a god send was a little booklet that either Dillions or Waterstone's produced at the time with 100 American novels you should read. Nowadays everything is full of 100 things to do read eat see before you die lists but then it was pretty unique.

This list became the main point of reference as I scoured the 2nd hand bookshops in Worcester and through it I found a lot of my favourite books and authors

one book I didn't get round to reading was confederacy of dunces until I saw it recently on a shelf of recommends in a bookshop and decided to finally give it a go.

I had no ideas what it was about although I think I did know it was some form of satire. The book , finally published after author John Kennedy Toole's suicide, follows the trials and tribulations of obese Ignatious j Reilly as he carries out his one man campaign against what he sees as the crassness of modern society whilst also being forced to finally get a job by his molly coddling mother. As he stumbles from one job to another his interactions with books other characters provide comedy and exasperation in equal measures. The tone tries to balance farce and satire , but the novels structure shines in the clever way in that each of the minor characters that spin into Ignatious's orbit have their own back story that we follow as they spin out again, until everything is tied together at the end. It is through their story that Toole paints a New Orleans where everyone is just as delusional as his main character

I don't think I've read another book where all the characters are quite so grotesque, there really isn't a redeeming feature among the lot of them and that is the main problem I had with the book. They were all almost Dickensian in their characture and so their is simply no respite so that in the end I felt like I was trapped in a surreal nightmare of of which there was no escape form these awful people, which is guess was the whole point.

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