Having trouble with my valve


Laugh out loud funny. Books that can do that are as rare as a Scottish World cup football (soccer for my North American readers) goal. Maybe not that rare (almost extinct). But this book is one of those singular published moments.


John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

I read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole before I knew the author had committed suicide aged 31. Toole’s grieving mother hawked her dead son’s manuscript around for 11 years before it was published in 1980.

Cult hit, posthumous Pulitzer prize winner and in the creation of protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly, the crowning moment for picaresque novels, Toole’s book remains laugh out loud.

Read again in the shadow of the author’s death, it throws up thoughts of what could have been for the author with every page turn.

And it is so much more than just a funny book.

“Go dangle your withered parts over the toilet!’ Ignatius screamed savagely.”

Toole picked the title for his masterpiece in reference to an epigram from Jonathan Swift‘s essay Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting.

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

Badged that too:


Jonathan Swift’s Dunces and Confederacy

Clever stuff Mr Swift and Mr Toole.


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