In my opinion, A Confederacy of Dunces is a crappy novel. I think the only reason it was published was because its author, John Kennedy Toole, killed himself. After his death, his mommy pushed to get this piece of drivel published and Toole was (posthumously) awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
I read the novel some time around 2000, at the suggestion of a girl I was wooing at the time. Like the girl, this novel has come to symbolize for me everything that is disgusting about pseudo-intellectualism and snobbery. It’s a perfect example of the lemming-attitude that pervades so much of our popular culture. People tell others they liked it because the people they consider “smart” or “cultured” say they enjoyed reading it.
By the way, I didn’t enjoy the book, told the girl thus (and why), and it took me a lot longer to get laid that it should have.
Admittedly, it’s been 9 or more years since I read the book, but I still remember the mental taste of the bitter, thick prose. It was like reading spoiled oatmeal. His characters are one-dimensional and stereotypical, which would be fine if he was exploring the inter-relations among them. Instead, each character was oil-and-vinegar with the others.
My guess is that most people who enjoyed the book didn’t understand half of what they were reading. Without directly insulting anyone’s intelligence, Toole used a lot of big words in long sentences to describe convoluted concepts, and I don’t think the average American has the education or short-term memory to truly pick up what he was putting down.
In fact, I don’t think Toole was really putting down anything. I think this book is just an agglomeration of the many divergent topics on which Toole had opinions. I don’t think Toole was well-read at all. Rather, I think he was a crappy reader who started something too dense for him to mentally digest, formed an opinion before finishing whatever it was he was reading, and wrote at length about why he thought his concept of the author’s point was stupid. He then threw this mish-mash into a single work and called it “a novel”.
Which he couldn’t get published, because it wasn’t any good. So he killed himself.
My lack of respect for suicides aside, I think Toole was a spoiled brat who expected the world to recognize his greatness. He was, as they say, “a legend in his own mind” and couldn’t handle the fact that there’s a big difference between what goes on in one’s mind and reality.
Now, dear readers, I know you prefer your anonymity and don’t like it when I call for feedback, but I am interested in your opinions on this topic. Please feel free to use pseudonyms when commenting.
If you truly enjoyed this book, tell me WHY. Did you identify with one or more of the characters? Do you think the book is a telling commentary on society at the time? Was it just a good story that kept you laughing as you turned the pages?
I know for a fact that some of you consider yourselves to be intellectual in some fashion or another. And I know that some of you enjoy reading this blog partly so that you can count the words you don’t know.