The hero of John Kennedy Toole's incomparable, Pulitzer Prize-winning comic classic is one Ignatius J. Reilly, "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter". His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures.
©1980 Thelma D. Toole; (P)1997 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Barrett Whitener strikes just the right note." (AudioFile)
"A Confederacy of Dunces has been reviewed almost everywhere, and every reviewer has loved it. For once, everyone is right." (Rolling Stone)
"What a delight, what a roaring, rollicking, footstomping wonder this book is! I laughed until my sides ached, and then I laughed on." (Chicago Sun-Times)
This is one of those special books, a book rejected by dozens of publishers, a book that led its author to suicide, a book that might bring you to tears (of joy) in the end. It is a character study of an almost middle aged man, still living with his mother, who's just about ready to get a job in an elaborately quirky 1970's New Orleans, told with all the sophistication an over-educated author could muster. It's a really funny piece of fiction that just so happens to be intertwined with real life tragedy.
There are several different versions of this spoken book. None of them compares to the Barrett Whitener reading. Whitener interprets the sounds of the literal dialects seemingly with ease. And this makes the book a million times more enjoyable to listen to. Audible has taken some time to offer this particular reading on its website, several years in fact. But the quality of this recording makes the wait worth while.
My first reaction to this book was that I did not like it. The characters were unlovable and hard to get to know, and the narrator's style of reading somewhat annoyed me.
But that was only in the beginning.
About half an hour into the book I began to love each character's multiple flaws. From one catastrophe to the next, I grew to love everything about the characters and the precarious situations in which they were always a part. The narrator's voice also began to grow on me, as I relized that his voice, tone, and inflection were perfect for the development of the characters.
From Ignatius' "Oh my GOD!" to Jones' "Whoa!" to Ignatius' Mother's "He doesn't love me...", this fantastic tragicomedy is sure to get your attention and keep it.
Overall, I loved this book. If you aren't thrilled with it in the beginning, don't worry. Give it a chance and Mr. Toole's masterpiece will prove itself.
I will definitely be listening to this book again and again.
It is interesting to look at the earlier reviews – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so many 1-star and 5-star ratings attached to the same book. That seems to mean that “Confederacy of Dunces” is either going to grab you or repulse you.
After reading the book with great enjoyment, I was skeptical about listening to it: the characters all have a distinct voice in my mind, and I thought it would be hard for a narrator to pull it off well. I was very pleased with this rendition. I am a native Midwesterner and know very little about New Orleans. Those who are familiar with it in these reviews seem to have differing opinions about the accuracy of the accents, but from an outside perspective, the variety of voices and dialects and the nuances needed to bring out the characters’ personalities were all handled beautifully.
I think the comparison between Ignatius and Don Quixote is a good one – they are both creations of genius with no real antecedents, insane by most standards, but profoundly poignant representations of the people many of us are afraid we may be – people who don’t quite fit into the world we live in. Maybe it is those who feel like we are floating along in a ship of fools (or a confederacy of dunces) who appreciate the book more.
Reading the reviews, it's obvious that not everyone gets satire. That's not a measure of intelligence, it's just like rolling your Rs--some people can, and some people can't.
This is satire. It's not funny like Jim Carey or Robin Williams or Howard Stern. It's funny like Stephen Colbert (without the political bent). You have to implicitly grasp that the characters, even the narrative, are saying one thing while meaning another.
The story is about a series of characters in New Orleans in the 60s, who are all affected by the main character, Ignatius J Reilly, and his ridiculous delusional arrogance. There seems to be little point or direction through most of the novel. Few if any of the characters are constantly endearing, and you find yourself wondering if they are aggressors, or victims, or ultimately whether there is any such thing as either. But down to the last line, the story has heart and meaning.
Throughout the main narrative you are constantly aware of minor themes accompanying the main story, some in rhythm, some following their own beat, but all connected. You will read one scene and understand, without the author mentioning it, how that scene affects everything else. It's a breathtaking example of novel writing.
And the narrator is perfect. He catches every nuance.
If you are looking for slapstick or straightforward humor, this book won't be for you. If you love satire, this is one of the best examples you'll find.
I first read this book in paperback 20 years ago and couldn't wait for the unabridged version to come to Audible.
I had forgotten many details of the story, but I knew that the key to enjoying this book would be in the narration. This book is such a swirling stew of outrageous characters, no mere mortal could attempt to commit it to the spoken word.
Barrett Whitener was up to the challenge.
As a son of the South, I have a keen ear for Northern or Midwestern interlopers who attempt the patterns of Southern speech. Adding to my suspicion was the unique brogue of New Orleans required to authentically portray these characters.
Mr. Whitener started slowly. His portrayal of the complex, bombastic Ignatius J. Reilly was sputtering and stilted in the first two chapters. But then he began to find his stride with Ignatius and soon began adding extra flavor to the many quirky, hillarious characters that make this book what it always has been - an American original.
I've always loved this story, but the narration had me pulling my hair out after the first twenty minutes. The jokes are timed clumsily, the accents are awkward, and the pacing is off. Like Ignatius himself, this book rolls along with its own peculiar momentum, but this narration trips up at every turn. I waited a long time for this to appear on Audible; now that it has, I'm very disappointed. Please, please, powers that be, bring this wonderful book around again on Fortune's wheel and give it a new narration the second time around!
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Steinbeck
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.
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!"
"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.
A lover of audiobooks of all kinds, since childhood, when long car journeys were accompanied by Discworld stories. @ReineDesLivres (Twitter)
There's something about Ignatius J Reilly ... He'll make you guffaw with laughter, choke with repulsion and, thanks to the remarkable talent of John Kennedy Toole, you might even find pity for him.
This novel is astounding. It's such a tragedy that there were no more novels by Toole, who could have been a prodigious talent. However we have this title, and Ignatius is his gift to the world, and the world is much richer for it.
You won't regret a moment spent listening to this brilliant audiobook; the narration is spot on, and the characterisations marvellous. Best enjoyed while eating a hot dog. Happy listening.
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