A Confederacy of Dunces, John Toole (2016)

I read this book last year (you can check out my review here) but it was too good not to read again. This has become my most favorite fiction work and I think it will be a yearly read for me.

You can read what I wrote last year but here are some things that struck me a second run through:

There is a lot of philosophy that undergirds the narrative that is easy to lose, particularly if you’re not well versed in Medieval literature. One of the more striking things that I noticed was the reference to “Lady Fortuna’s wheel.” This is all explained in the book, but somehow I missed it the first time through. Apparently, luck in Medieval times revolved around “cycles.” If you had bad luck, you were going to be in it for awhile, at least until the cycle had passed. The same with good luck. Ignatius constantly references “Fortuna’s wheel” as he runs into a string of bad luck that begins with his attempted arrest, his mother backing into an iron patio that she has to pay back, and continues with a host of other zany adventures that stem from Ignatius having to get a job to help pay for the patio.

In addition, I think I caught on to the plot a little better this time around. I’ve read some reviews that the general consensus of Confederacy is that you either love it or get 50 pages in and stop reading altogether. Ignatius is a piece of work and some people are so repulsed by him they can’t stand to read any farther. I think reading through a second time prepares you for his disgustingness.

Further, some of the best parts of this story, in my opinion, are Ignatius’ interludes where he writes down his thoughts as a “working boy”; essentially, these are a compilation of writings that he hopes to form into his greatest work. Ignatius is an interesting character because he is such an old soul. But not just an old soul: a Medieval soul. So when you’re reading his very thoughts, he incorporates a lot of material from philosophy and culture that would have been accepted in those times. There’s a lot of nuances that can be missed. One of my most favorite lines of the entire book is when Mrs. Riley (Ignatius’ mother) enters his room and steps on these chief tablets of all his writings: he says to her “you are stepping on my worldview.”

Obviously this is a very funny book that almost has to be listened to. I bought the paperback version to read through the second time, but the allure of Barrett Whitener’s spectacular voices was too strong. Although it is very funny, I will admit that I, again, did not laugh out loud much. Funny as it may be, I must have a heart of stone.

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