Tag Archives: John Kennedy Toole

95. The taste and decency of A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces is set in the early ‘60s of New Orleans, written by John Kennedy Toole in 1969, but not published until 1980 through the perseverance of his mother (read: the stalking of an influential professor until the man succumbed and read the carbon manuscript) after Toole’s suicide.

The first thing you should know about the novel is that its title was derived from a Jonathan Swift quote:

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

I guess the next thing is to meet Ignatius J. Reilly: protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces, and a self-styled genius. Forced by his mother to get a job (his first), he drags his 30 year old, university educated obese ass to gain employment as a filing clerk and, later, as a hot dog vendor. This doesn’t stop him from waging a one-man war against modernity, vices, and pretty much anything going against his principles of “taste and decency” and “proper theology and geometry”.

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