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Publisher's Summary

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once." So enters one of the most memorable characters in recent American fiction.

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jon
  • West Hartford, CT, USA
  • 09-18-05

Well Done

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.

156 of 161 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joseph
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 04-28-09

Funniest book ever, if you like satire.

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.

90 of 94 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Brilliant, Bigoted Buffoon -- had me rolling

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.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chris
  • Napa, CA
  • 10-15-05


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.

78 of 82 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • St. Louis, MO, USA
  • 11-28-05

Insanely Funny

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!

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joseph
  • South Bend, IN, USA
  • 10-12-07

A Great Original

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.

37 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Louis
  • Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • 05-19-12

A Perfect Performance, Equal to the Prose

“ ... 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.


8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing Audio Performance

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Bumptious, Noxious, Fractious Ignatius J. Reilly

"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.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars


This is an extraordinary piece of work, easily one of the best writing performances I've read/heard in a long time. Can't remember the last time I chuckled reading something so much.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful