I have just set down A Confederacy of DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole. I enjoyed it immensely. I was led to this missive by someone at the Loft Literary Center. I had taken a class on the art of writing a query letter to an editor, and during the course of the class the teacher asked us to describe our book (if we had written one) in one sentence.
I described Someotherville, of course, being my only novel, and the teacher’s reaction surprised me. (I remember his name now – Brian Malloy) His reaction to my description of Someotherville was to tell me that it reminded him of A Confederacy of DUNCES. He explained that Confederacy was written by a man who had committed suicide, and his mother had published the novel posthumously.
I was a little confused as to whether that was a part of the story itself, or a story about the novel. It really isn’t much like Someotherville at all, because in my novel, the main character’s husband has died, leaving several half-written manuscripts; she spends her time trying to finish writing one of them. I doubt that Mrs. Toole had to write any part of Confederacy.
Regardless, I am happy that he mentioned the book, and I am happy that I have now read it. I am also happy that it doesn’t really reflect the same story line as my novel and I can still pursue finding a publisher.
I do agree that Confederacy is brilliant, and I am happy that it won the Pulitzer Prize. It’s too bad that Mr. Toole killed himself before his book was successful. I loved the dialogue and just the idea of this character, Ignatius J. Reilly. I was reminded of so many different characters I have known in life – none of whom I particularly wish to see again – and it gave me many pangs of grief that I have never seen New Orleans.
I feel that I am letting my vocabulary in this essay exude the influence of Mr. Reilly’s character – overblown and grandiose. But sometimes it is fun to write in just such a manner.
I don’t want to blow any of the mysterious secrets of the novel by writing too much about it – suffice it to say that it’s entirely enjoyable, perhaps there were one or two pages in the middle that lost me for a moment, but it picks back up and then steamrollers to the end. Read it, by all means, and formulate your own opinions!