"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
- Jonathan Swift
'Confederacy' is one of my top-5 favorite books - both in print and audio. I just finished my second 'listen', and am amazed at the book's ability to make me laugh and wince in equal measure. To those who have tried this book but put it down unfinished, give it another chance. It is meant to be experienced in a visceral way, much like New Orleans itself. Someone once said that upon returning home to NO, he had to find a bowl of great Red Beans & Rice and eat it right away, to get back into the funk of his town. Ignatius Riley is part of that funk, with his troublesome valve, inexorably obese body, and unbelievably overwhelming hubris.
Mr. Whitener is spot-on in his narration. He truly brings Ignatius to life, is great with the supporting cast of characters, and the ironic tone of his Narrator is perfect.
If only the Coen brothers would get the movie rights, and cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as Ignatius, my world would be complete. Surely their combined genius would please even the dimmest confederacy of dunces.
I read this book about 15 years ago and loved it. It is filled with fantastic characters (in both senses of the word) and even better dialog. It is really the dialog that carries the book for me.
I wanted to reread the book and when I saw it was available in audio book format I jumped on it.
The audio version is unbelievably wonderful. While it is not a dramatized version you almost feel that it is because of the PERFECT voices used for the characters. You really get the feel for the personality of Ignatious (the main characther).
I cannot reccomend this highly enough for fans of quirky fiction. This is a perfect audio adaptation of an already great book.
This is one of those books I'd always heard the title of bandied about and never picked up. Now I feel like I am the last person in the world to be let into the secret society of Ignatious J. Reilly's fan club! This book is hilarious - more so for all the protaganist's horrific flaws, and for how the listener can shamefacedly see those flaws in her own life. This reading was very well done - I sat in front of my computer and laughed out loud. I want to listen to it all over again!
What a wonderful experience! A delightful book and so expertly read. Listening to this book reminded me of something we used to call "radio". I've listned to many books and in this one each character was expertly rendered and captured.
And the story itself is captivating. It has humor galore and a bit of suspence as well. I fully agree with the opening narration that the loss of the author is a double tragegy: for his own death and for the world to lose any future books. I'd read more in a flash.
Was there no one in the city of New Orleans qualified to provide narration for this wonderful book? As a native New Orleanian, I found not ONE of the characters to have an authentic accent of any social strata in the city. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I must have been out of my mind to get the audio version, knowing that the accents might have been botched so badly. And his mispronunciation of place names was just salt in the wound.
Please people, get the hardcover version, and try your best to forget what you just heard. As Ignatius would say, " Oh my GAWD!"
One thing that struck me about this book was how structured it was. Like The Master and Margarita, no matter how outrageous the story got I never felt like it was going too far or not playing within the rules it had set up. A lot of this has to do with the magical quality of some of the characters. Ignatius' unique world view could recreate reality anyway he saw fitting to suit himself, and more subtly but just as importantly Jones who has no actual corporeal form: he's just a voice, a pair of sunglasses and a cloud of cigarette smoke. This magic flittering around the edges of each character played well into the theme of fortune, Fortuna, controlling all of our fate and it helped build this fictional world of New Orleans as a real place full of living, breathing characters whose fates are intertwined and dependent on each other.
Much like poor Mr. Levy, I too kept feeling depressed while reading this wonderful book. What made me sad was everyone seems to be suffering some degree or other of mental illness that hinders them from seeing the world as it really is, and also everyone's lives were miserable because of circumstances out of their control - which led to more delusional behavior.
The most interesting theme of the book was self image and how people see themselves and each other and how they present themselves to the world. Nearly every character goes through a physical metamorphosis, Ignatius through his various jobs and hot dog vendor costumes (not to mention his weight), his mother's bowling shoes she never takes off, Jones' shifting cloud shapes, Miss Trixie's new teeth and her always delusional 'I'm a very attractive woman', Mancuso's forced undercover wardrobe choices, Darlene's southern belle strippers costume, Dorian Greene's hat (who he got from Irene at the beginning of the novel), and even Mr. Levy's pant company which he changes to selling Bermuda shorts. Everyone is continually trying on new identities and it recalls how dangerously close to insanity some of the characters really are, Ignatius and Mrs. Levy, in particular.
Another theme is security. I realized this when Dorian Greene grows paranoid about the safety of his rental when the three lesbians are kicked out. He makes sure the gate gets is locked against intruders (no doubt because he and all his friends living there are gay), but there are other issues of security. Ignatius only wants to stay safe in either his room, or more broadly New Orleans having only left the city once in his life. Mr. Gonzalez desperately wants to keep working at Levy pants, probably because his entire identity is caught up in that wretched hovel. Jones wants the security of employment, if only to stay out of jail as a vagrant. Miss Trixie wants the security of retirement and, literally, a check from social security. Even Miss Annie wants security, this in the form of peace and quiet from her insane neighbors. This security recalls people who are living close to the edge of society and could lose everything at any time. This in turn could easily feed into any sort of vice or eccentricity.
These two themes represent how lonely and sad living in a city can be. Wanting to stand out from the crowd just to feel somewhat alive keeps the soul alive but wanting security from the teeming masses of people you don't know, some of them dangerous, feeds your desire to hide away. These competing desires, to stand out and to hide, manifest themselves in various ways. Ignatius chooses to hide even though his personality makes him stand out, as does Mr Levy, and Jones. However, Dorian Greene, Claude Robichaux, Lana Lee, and Darlene all want to stand out - even if their actions mean they need to keep a low profile. Mancuso goes back and forth between hiding and standing out being he's the undercover cop who sees all sides of the city, good and bad, though mostly the bad.
But even at a deeper level, the feeling of individuality and security are primal needs and are tied to the spiritual, even cosmic nature of the book through Fortuna and her wheel. We are all bound together, we are not safe from each other, but we all need each other, too. This schizophrenic view, this back and forth between needing security and wanting individuality, manifests itself in Ignatius' world view that modern society is totally corrupt, perverted, and base. All of modern life's pleasures are wicked and debauched, but also necessary, too. He loves his Dr. Nutt (there has to be a pun in this), he loves his doughnuts and little luxuries. And he can't really reconcile these two competing ideologies, the battle between consumerism and survival (or at least spiritual). Other characters deal with this better - as most of us do - but even the most well adjusted of us sometimes feel that modern life is a bit silly and pointless and full of hypocrisy. We see and hate injustice, but we're not going to personally do anything about it, unlike Ignatius who though totally out of touch with reality, at least attempts to do something for the workers of Levy Pants.
The thing about Ignatius is that while I do not like him as a person - he's a liar, he's manipulative, he's selfish, he's lazy - is that I can understand why someone like that would exist. I mean, why wouldn't someone like that grow out of the insanity of modern life? Might as well meet insanity with more insanity! Live life on your own terms, even if it is crazy. And so I sort of forgive him a little, though I would loathe to even be in the same building as him. He's a great literary character, but a pretty awful human being. He had everything handed to him and though he did suffer through some traumatic events in his life - his father dying, and his dog dying - he's not suffering worse than, say, Jones who astutely shows us the people on the bus see him: as less than human and as a criminal. In fact the way people feel about Jones is how they should feel about Ignatius. Jones is a good person, he wants to work, he wants what modern life has to offer, even if it is as humble as a Buick and some air conditioning. He's even as smart as Ignatius - not book smart, but his mind is just as sharp and would have been as book smart had he gone to school; he is street smart like no other.
And I think a lot of the book hinges on these two characters, Jones and Ignatius. Ignatius is corpulent, Jones in non-corporal. Ignatius is lazy and slothful, Jones is willing to work, though no harder than he's being paid for; he's no fool. But they are both outcasts in society, as a lot of the characters in the book are, and that's what makes the New Orleans of the book a microcosm of all modern life. New Orleans here is a fishbowl where we can watch the crazy swim about and see how it acts, lives, and fights. And that makes Ignatius' escape at the end sort of frightening because he's now on the loose, infecting crazy wherever he goes, though his effect seemed to have a net positive impact on every single person he met. Everyone winds up the better because of him, either directly or indirectly, and whether they wanted it or not.
This was a great book and one of the funniest books I have ever read, though always with a twinge of sadness about it. And this is a completely unique book, too; I've never read anything like it. Like all great books it leaves you with much to think about and to unpack from each page and is a wonderful commentary on our modern age, even if it was written half a century ago.
By the way the narrator, Barrett Whitener is brilliant. At first I thought I would never get used to his near staccato delivery, but his character voices are the best I've ever heard. This book comes alive with his reading and his delivery adds a quality of calm to the craziness of the characters he brings to life.
I initially purchased this audiobook months ago, after I had purchased it in print. I couldn't get past the first chapter. I kept running into references to it and decided to give it 75 pages or give up. I am so glad I continued. It is the funniest literary novel I've ever read or listened to. I loved it.
It's hard to describe the novel or Ignatius adequately enough to explain the hilarity, as Walker Percy says in his foreword to this novel for which John Kennedy Toole (a tortured soul) was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize 12 years after his suicide in 1969 at the age of 31.
My best stab at a description of Ignatius is a brilliant bigoted buffoon in New Orleans (the Big Easy), and to give some quotes, though they are much funnier in context:
“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”
Ignatius: “I suspect that beneath your offensively and vulgarly effeminate façade there may be a soul of sorts. Have you read widely in Boethius?"
N.O. Denizen: "Who? Oh, heavens no. I never even read newspapers."
Ignatius: "Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age," Ignatius said solemnly. "Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books."
Denizen: "You're fantastic."
Ignatius: "I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he's found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.”
Mother Reilly: “It smells terrible in here.'
Ignatius: "Well, what do you expect? The human body, when confined, produces certain odors which we tend to forget in this age of deodorants and other perversions. 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. You may remember that Mark Twain preferred to lie supinely in bed while composing those rather dated and boring efforts which contemporary scholars try to prove meaningful. Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.”
I definitely recommend this.
Husband, father, building contractor, inventor and audio book lover.
Ignatius J. Reilly is one of the most interesting, fantastic and deluded characters in book I have ever listen to. As for me I am not aware of the intricacies of the New Orleans dialect and had no problems with the narrator. I was engrossed in the tragic and hilarious life of our victim of the conspiracy of the "dunces", he was so ruthlessly surrounded with. Funny, is a poor description of this tale, as the characters are both heartbreaking and humorous. I was not ready for the book to end and it is unfortunate that the author left this world without sharing more of his wit. At least we got this bit of his mind. Savor it.
“ ... with the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.”
- Ignatius J. Reilly
The story of the book and its place in the American canon is well-known. Ignatius J. Reilly is a man of New Orleans and the 13th century. He has been called Don Quixote, but he is the windmill, leaving chaos in a swath larger than his blubbery odious arms.
Two of the books characters are New Orleans and the New Orleans accent. It is the New Orleans of the 1960s, where one twisted wires until the television resolved itself into only two ghostly images, where nickels and dimes could buy things, and when pornography rhymed with photography.
The introduction is by another son of New Orleans, Walker Percy, who tells the story of the novel's publication and praises the authentic dialogue and the portrayal of a black man in the 1960s as a man instead of a charcoal caricature.
Toole's prefaces the novel with a quote from A J Liebling, the great New Yorker contributor, journalist and war reporter. Liebling cites the New Orleans accent--which is not antebellum julip tones but the clipped sounds of a working port, "closer to Hoboken".
Without the right performance, this book fails, and this performance is perfect, from the port city clip to the black man standing up to his racist employer to Ignatius's own blustery indignant quaver.
The story is fantastic, very funny and intelligent - the Narration is horrible and completely ruined the book for me - please just read this and don't waste your time listening!