A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

983195Fiction – audiobook. Read by Barrett Whitener. Blackstone Audio, 1997. Originally published 1980. 13 hours, 32 minutes. Library copy. 

My public library’s catalog record for this novel describes Ignatius J. Reilly, the main character of Toole’s Pulitzer-winning novel, as “an obese, self-absorbed, hapless Don Quixote of the French Quarter, whose half-hearted attempts at employment lead to a series of wacky adventures among the denizens of New Orleans’ lower depths”.

I first encountered Toole’s novel when Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company presented a stage adaption of the novel in November 2015. Reilly was played by Nick Offerman, and I found his presentation of the character to be so sidesplittingly funny that I requested the novel off PaperBackSwap as soon as I left the theatre. (I also finally watched ‘Parks & Recreation’.)

I let the novel languish on my shelves for years, picking it up once before only long enough to decide that the New Orleans’ dialect might be better served in audio.

In that regard, I was correct. Whitener’s reading of the characters clarified the tumbled spellings and unfamiliar words within the text, and he did was wonderful job of making sure the characters were discernible during the lengthy passages of back-and-forth dialogue.

Unfortunately, listening to the audiobook has overshadowed my fond memories of the stage adaptation for the worst. Reilly is a bombastic, self-centered liar and grifter who emotionally abuses his mother and insists he knows what is best for the people around him despite reason and facts. There is nothing redeemable or humorous about his character. Sounds like another American you know, no?

Toole’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. He is one of only three winners to receive the prize posthumously. 

The Classics Club:

This is my 39th book for the Classics Club, which challenges participants read and discuss fifty or more books considered to be classics within a five year period. My personal goal for this project is to read seventy-five books in three years ending on August 15, 2017. This deadline has since come and past, but I am still trying to work through my list. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post or project post.


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