Here’s another review I’ve been putting off and another lesson in Don’t Read Your Favorite Books Twice. I hadn’t read A Confederacy of Dunces since I was sixteen or seventeen. I read it, then, partially because it’s my mom’s favorite book (what?) and partially because it’s considered by many (most?) the quintessential book about New Orleans.
I thought it was the funniest book I’d ever read. I loved every minute of it. But, over the years, I also shoehorned it into the you-had-to-be-there box, thinking that unless you had some serious New Orleans experience, you wouldn’t get it.
I was wrong about all of those things. I’ve read several books that made me laugh as hard as Confederacy did back in the day (The Loved One, for instance). It might be the quintessential New Orleans book, but I think that N’Awilins over Easy is funnier and more true to the city, though no one has heard about it. Confederacy is also objectively a better book – there’s no you-had-to-be-there: it’s just a good, well-written novel (though I think the end is a bit of a cop-out, but you know).
The basic plot: Ignatius Reilly is overeducated and impossibly lazy. He gets into trouble in various very New-Orleansy ways, and there are lots of ridiculous subplots that eventually merge into something even more ridiculous. Deux ex machina. The end.
My sort-of disappointment at this second reading isn’t meant to discount the novel at all – it’s better than I remembered. Maybe it’s that I haven’t lived in New Orleans for long enough that the novel seems more distant than it did then. It’s funny and certainly worth a read. I’m sure I’ll read it again sooner or later.
Bonus: Here’s a photo of my mom with Ignatius from way back in 2003.