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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ignatius gets nasty if we run outta cake.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Dunces is a comedy twinged with touches of harsh reality, a raucous romp with a small cast of characters. It centers around one Ignatius J. Reilly and his mother, Irene Reilly, and their rather dysfunctional relationship. The story takes place in New Orleans, and the events in the book are set into motion by a minor car accident caused by Mrs. Reilly that sends her grown (yet not self-sufficient) thirty-something son out on the streets looking for work. A series of hilarious circumstances ensue, replete with hijinks, twists, and turns along the way. For a more complete summary, see my notes in the back of the book pasted below.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

The novel's title is derived from this line:

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign - that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."- Jonathan Swift

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you like a bawdy sense of humor and an impeccable vocabulary (and don't mind a heavy dose of comic condescension in a main character) run out and grab a copy. It'll have you ROTFL. (rolling on the floor laughing - text lingo I clearly don't have enough occasion for using.)

Heads up, this post is a bit long - it's a funny book and I want to share it with You, my Devoted Readers. :)

A few thoughts, in no special order... (my sister, Diana, did a read-along, so I may share some of her thoughts in another post, fyi)

Ignatius's first interaction with Patrolman Mancuso, a newbie cop looking to score a suspicious character to drag down to the precinct:
"Is it the part of the police department to harass me when this city is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world? If you have a moment, I shall endeavor to discuss the crime problem with you, but don't make the mistake of bothering me."

Ignatius, on how he passes his time:
"I dust a bit. In addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip." mm, cheese dip!

On the green hunting cap Ignatius sports on the daily:
"When he was talking, he'd pull the earflap down, and when he was listening, he'd stick it up again."

The Reilly house:
"The address that Patrolman Mancuso was looking for was the tiniest structure on the block, aside from the carports, a Lilliput of the eighties.  A frozen banana tree, brown and stricken, languished against the front of the porch, the tree preparing to collapse as the iron fence had done long ago. Near the dead tree there was a slight mound of earth and a leaning Celtic cross cut from plywood.  The 1946 Plymouth was parked in the front yard, its bumper pressed against the porch, its taillights blocking the brick sidewalk. But, except for the Plymouth and the weathered cross and the mummified banana tree, the tiny yard was completely bare.  There were no shrubs. There was no grass. And no birds sang."

A conversation between Ignatius and his mother on the state of his room:
"Ignatius, what's all this trash on the floor?"
"That is my worldview that you see. It still must be incorporated into a whole, so be careful where you step."
"And all the shutters closed. Ignatius! It's still light outside."
"My being is not without its Proustian elements." heh heh
"It smells terrible in here."
"Well, what do you expect? Actually, I find the atmosphere of this room rather comforting. Schiller needed the scent of apples rotting in his desk in order to write. I, too, have my needs." haghaghaghah. rotfl.

Ignatius, to his mother, on going to confession to atone for interrupting his writing:
"Let him know that you have delayed the completion of a monumental indictment against our society. Perhaps he will comprehend the magnitude of your failing."

My favorite character, Miss Trixie, works at Levy Pants. She's super old and quite addled. Here are a few choice bits:
"Miss Trixie was never perfectly vertical; she and the floor always met at an angle of less than ninety degrees."

Ignatius - "She seems to have grown fond of my cap, for she has taken to wearing it rather than her celluloid visor on occasion."

Mr. Gonzalez: "Miss Trixie!"
"Who?" Miss Trixie cried frantically.
She looked down at her tattered nightgown and flannel robe.
"Oh, my goodness," she wheezed. "I thought I felt a little chilly outside."
"Go home right now."
"It's cold outside, Gomez." (nb: Miss Trixie calls Gonzalez Gomez and Ignatius Gloria.)
"You can't stay at Levy Pants like that. I'm sorry."
"Am I retired?" Miss Trixie asked hopefully.
"No! I just want you to go home and change. You only live around the block."

Ignatius, on Mr. Gonzalez sending Miss Trixie home to change:
"I do not understand why she was sent away. After all, we are quite informal here. We are one big family. I only hope that you have not damaged her morale. You may not be surprised to see me appear one morning in my nightshirt. I find it rather comfortable."
"I certainly don't mean to dictate what you people should wear," Mr. Gonzalez said anxiously.
"I should hope not. Miss Trixie and I can only take so much." haghaghaghaghagahg

Btws, Ignatius is enormous:
He lives on a diet of mostly cake (see title of this entry), hot dogs, and more cake. He also makes frequent references to his "valve", a physical attribute which supposedly opens and closes according to his environment, and which dictates his ability to write/create. Ignatius's hands are also always referred to as his paws. heh heh

Ignatius's incendiary friend Myrna Minkoff, at the end of a long letter about a social activist film she's working on:
"Ignatius, I've humored you long enough in our correspondence. Don't write to me again until you've taken part. I hate cowards.-M. Minkoff

P.S. Also write if you'd like to play the landlord." haghaghaghaghah. 

Ignatius, in a letter to a client of Levy Pants, Abelman's, who return a shipment of trousers because they are two feet short in the leg:
"Why? The trousers were sent to you (1) as a means of testing your initiative (A clever, wide-awake business concern should be able to make three-quarter-length trousers a byword of masculine fashion. Your advertising and merchandising programs are obviously faulty.) and (2) as a means of testing your ability to meet the standards requisite in a distributor of our quality product. (Our loyal and dependable outlets can vend any trouser bearing the Levy label no matter how abominable their design and construction.  You are apparently a faithless people." rotfl. 

Ignatius, on his stellar work ethic:
"If I am functioning in the morning, I shall perhaps return. I cannot predict the hour at which I will arrive, but, more or less, I imagine that you can expect to see me." you tell him, Ignatius. what a gem.

Ignatius, to his mother (who keeps her wine in the oven):
"Will you please stop shrieking like a fishmonger and run along? Don't you have a bottle of muscatel baking in the oven?

Mrs. Reilly, aka World's Worst Date, to her potential suitor, Mr. Robichaux, after she already claims she's *heard* Ignatius calling, despite the fact that he is roughly 6 miles away across town:
"Lord, lemme go see if Santa's okay. Poor thing. Maybe she burnt herself on the stove. Santa's all the time getting herself burnt. She don't take care around the fire, you know."
"She woulda screamed if she was burnt."
"Not Santa. She's got plenty courage, that girl. You won't hear a word outta her. It's that strong Italian blood."haghagh. 

Myrna, to Ignatius, in another letter (fyi, Ignatius doesn't believe in sex; Myrna disagrees with his stance):
"Get out of that womb-house for at least an hour a day. Take a walk, Ignatius. Look at the trees and birds.  Realize that life is surging all around you. The valve closes because it thinks it is living in a dead organism.  Open your heart, Ignatius, and you will open your valve. If you have having any sex fantasies, describe them in detail in your next letter. I may be able to interpret their meaning for you and help you through this psychosexual crisis you are having." haghagagagagagagagh. womb-house. amazing.

Ignatius, to Patrolman Mancuso, on whether he's enjoying a depressing and esoteric book (which Mancuso has, in fact, had stolen from him):
"How are you doing?" he persisted illiterately.
"Where is my book?" I demanded terrifyingly.
"I'm still reading it. It's very good," he answered in terror.
"Profit by its lesson.' I cautioned. "When you have completed it, I shall ask you to submit to me a written critique and analysis of its message to humanity!" haghah. I'm going to start asking people to submit written critiques and analyses of the message to humanity for my blog entries. 

In a hilarious side story, Darlene, a girl working in a bar called Night of Joy, decides to put on a strip show with her pet cockatoo, and her boss names Darlene Harlett O'Hara:
The bird ends up attacking Ignatius (which I assume is why it is featured on the cover of my book). What I don't understand is why the cockatoo on the cover of my book is yellow when the book clearly says the cockatoo is rose-colored. Inconsistencies, people! Details, details, details! (sidebar: Few things annoy me more in this world than ill-chosen or poorly designed cover art. Do you know how much power you have in whether a person picks up the book and takes it home, people? Don't screw it up!)

Mrs. Reilly, to Ignatius, on the fact that he's wearing a pirate costume to sell hot dogs:
"Angel was right," Mrs. Reilly cried. "You been out on the streets dressed up like a Mardi Gras all this time."
"A scarf here. A cutlass there. One or two deft and tasteful suggestions. That's all. The total effect is rather fetching."

Hapless Patrolman Mancuso is forced to go undercover in various costumes by his supervisor, and Ignatius finds out that he has become wildly popular with the gays in the French Quarter:
"We love him dearly. He's just fabulous. I'm so glad the police have returned him to the people who truly appreciate him. Some people like him best as the British tourist. That is choice. But I've always preferred his southern colonel.  We've had him arrested twice for making indecent proposals. That's always wonderfully confusing to the police. I do hope that we haven't gotten him in too much trouble, for he's close to our hearts."

Other sentences I particularly enjoyed:
- "Patrolman Mancuso's love for the motorcycle was platonically intense."
- "Her brown wedgies squeaked with discount price defiance as she walked redly and pinkly along the broken brick sidewalk."
- "I was uninjured, and since pride is a Deadly Sin which I feel I generally eschew, absolutely nothing was hurt."
- Ignatius: "Canned food is a perversion. I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul."

Off to job hunt and celebrate the completion of my master's degree. Steer clear of canned food and open up those Valves, people! Sur la rue is up next! Join me if you dare.

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