Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sisters get to share their thoughts, too! This is a family affair, after all.

Diana did a read-along for Confederacy of Dunces. Her thoughts are shared below. Enjoy!

"There are so many things to love about this book. I first read it in college, (extracurricularly), and remembered loving it, but couldn't recall what actually happened to Ignatius as he fumbled about town. Having reread it last week, I would sum it up by saying it's a comedy of errors, a brilliant, Shakespearian endeavor set in the raucous climate of 1960's New Orleans. It feels like a play sometimes, as you see iterations of the same small cast of characters run into each other, first on the street, then in the central bar, then at the movie theater or at an art exhibition. You never quite know where the plot is heading, but rather, each character's storyline weaves in and out of the others', keeping the book just coherent enough to enjoy, but always slightly surprising.

At times the book feels quite racist, and offensive on many fronts, but Toole offers prejudice and mockery with equanimity, and ultimately, his portrayal of Jones, the African American, chain-smoking, underpaid janitor for the Night of Joy, is as a crafty aid to justice, a man who undermines his porn-peddling employer to win the day. The "fairy" Dorian Greene is introduced as a fashion-obsessed foil who eagerly purchases Mrs. Reilly's garish hat, but after he and Ignatius meet again in the French Quarter and engage in a hilarious duel (with Ignatius using his plastic sword to attack Dorian's exquisite sweater), Ignatius decides to champion New Orleans' homosexuals as a political party, with Dorian as the main organizer. Although Ignatius only considers the scheme as a way to one-up Myrna, his quasi-girlfriend-foe-provocateur, the concept still feels to me highly progressive, and although the gays don't end up having any interest in politics, they're depicted warmly and humanely. At one tender moment, the smallest and most badgered member of the gay party, Timmy, shyly asks Ignatius to dance with him.

Since Mere already posted some of her favorite passages, I won't add much more, but just mention some of the relationships I enjoyed: obviously, the central one between Ignatius and Mrs. Reilly, which is mostly combative, and forever frustrating for Mrs. Reilly, who constantly seeks kindness and approval from Ignatius, and never receives it. Towards the end of the novel, Mrs. Reilly says "I want to be treated nice by somebody before I die. You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being." Ignatius bitingly responds, "It's not your fate to be well treated...You're an overt masochist. Nice treatment will confuse and destroy you." It's not that Ignatius is really cruel, as he shows concern for Miss Trixie, and gratitude toward Myrna when she rescues him in the end, but his relationship with his mother is poisoned by proximity, a reminder to all of us to get out of the house and make something of ourselves. ;)

I also love the earnestness of several other characters, namely Darlene and Patrolman Mancuso. They're both desperate to prove themselves and gain respect, exhibiting opposite values to those of Ignatius, whose only motivations are foiling Myrna and finding new ways to provoke himself, intellectually or otherwise.

I'll end with a few choice bits of sexual humor, because I can't help but find them outrageously funny. After reading one of Myrna's incendiary letters, Ignatius "mumbled furiously...'This liberal doxy must be impaled upon the member of a particularly large stallion,'" which is especially hilarious as we know that Ignatius is a virgin, and he finds Myrna's sexual overtures unseemly and horrendous. He does, however, masturbate frequently, and one of the final chapters of the book opens with the amazing line "Ignatius spent the day in his room napping fitfully and attacking his rubber glove during his frequent, anxious moments of consciousness." Part of the beauty of this work is Toole's willingness to delve both into the reality of his characters' psyche and also their physicality. For me, it's a great loss that Toole did not live to share with the world more of his grand, comedic worldview."

Now accepting readers for On the Road, folks! I'll share your thoughts, too, if you join me :)

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