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Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Confederacy of Dunces

The protagonist in most works of fiction needs to achieve some level of empathy with the audience in order for anyone to care about them. They need to be kind, good-looking, and a tragic past certainly helps.

The protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces is an overweight, overeducated, total asshole of a human being who spends the entire novel practicing sociopathy and manipulating everyone around him to appease his borderline psychotic agenda. It's soooo good.

Even better? People hate this book. They fucking hate it!

Ms. Kidrobot -  it is so boring, pointless and at moments simply strange. I did not find the humor in it; the main character is a loser....that's it!

Lori - At page 75, I was bored silly. What, exactly, is the point of the story? The main character is repulsive with no redeeming qualities.

Bookworm & Bibliophile - If you want to read about a whining, arrested devlopment 30-year old obese slob who terrorizes passers by, refuses to work, and complains, page after page, about his "valve," and about a host of equally hateful and whining supporing characters, then by all means read on.

Amber Finch -  I was completely disappointed.

Love Shopping Amazon "Happy Kindler" - I leave this book without keeping a memory of even one likeable character.

A Customer - Why did this win a Pulitzer?

A Customer - I have an acquaintance who everyone considers quite annoying, and who has a very rude and unintelligent sense of humor -- I gave him the book, and just as I thought, he absolutely loved it. Still quotes from it, months later. Ugh.

A Customer - Confederacy of Dunces is one of the worst books I've ever read

I guess people don't like overweight sociopaths. This book certainly approaches you at a strange angle. The protagonist was written as an outcast and I think that feeling carries over to many of the readers: they don't want him, either.

Also, underneath the humor and the valve, this book is seriously dark stuff. That might put some people off, too.

Of course there are also people who feel a deep empathy for the main character, a psychopath who spends most of his day treating his mother like shit and literally farting around. I'm not part of this camp but I can still respect Toole's creation and I can see why people feel the need to defend him.

I don't want to go on a rant about prose and flow, but Dunces has a very unique feel. The dialogue, especially, has a commanding sense of timing that really draws the characters to the front of your mind. When you read this book you're going to get more than just disembodied voices. The scenes are vivid.

I think the only book I've read that resembles Dunces would be The Good Fairies of New York, which has the same sort of disjointed characters who kind of drift across each others' paths (and there's a fat asshole who plays a large role in that story, too). Millar's book is more machine-gun in it's narrative, as if I'm going to lose interest after a paragraph if he doesn't change things up.
I really enjoyed Fairies but (I'm sorry Millar) Dunces is a masterpiece. Dunces is the funniest shit I've ever read.

The author, John Kennedy Toole, wrote this book back in the sixties and it wasn't published until 1980 (I told you: people hate this book). Toole actually died back in '69. Just before his death he was attempting to publish Dunces. Editor Robert Gottlieb called it "Essentially pointless."

Toole ultimately committed suicide.

That reminds me. I need to start contacting some literary agents.

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