A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this
sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
-- Johathan Swift
From that beginning, John Kennedy Toole takes the reader on one of the most outrageous adventures in literature. The A Confederacy of Dunces is set in New Orleans in the early 1960s and follows the trials and tribulations of one Ignatius J. Reilly as he struggles to enter the world.
At around 30, Ignatius is still living at home. He has a good education, but suffers from arrested development or failure to launch or whatever it is that besets young people who don't quite make the transition from child to adult in a timely fashion.
But, nature seems to push such fledglings to the edge of the nest despite their resistance. For Ignatius, an accident at the beginning of the book sends him out into the world in search of a job. He does, in fact, find work first in a dysfunctional clothing factory and then as a hot dog vendor in the French Quarter.
At the same time, Ignatius is involved in a long distance relationship of sorts with a New York City beatnik who begins all her letters to him with the salutation, "Sirs:" as a result of her habit of writing so many protest letters. Myna is convinced that all the ills Ignatius suffers stem from his unexpressed sexuality.
Many of his most outrageous adventures stem from the fact that Ignatius -- and all the people around him -- view the world each from their own peculialy idiosyncratic perspectives. The meshing and grinding of all those perspectives creates a delicious and touching comedy that culminates in a thuroughly satisfying ending.
I love this book. I especially love listening to it. The audio version is exceptionally well done and adds to the overall enjoyment of an excellent stroy.