Just a brief interlude, there will be more ‘normal’ posts shortly. Well, maybe.
We’re going on holiday this week !! Wahoo!! So maybe the posts will be a bit few and far between. We will have to see.
But, what I wanted to drop in briefly to say, other than…”I’m going on holiday!”… was I have just started to read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I’m only reading this because of the 1001 Books blog and my Booklitzer challenge. I figured I would get to kill two birds with one stone. I have mentioned previously that I have trouble with American literature, in that I tend to find that it doesn’t agree with me. I have no idea why.
My first and only Pulitzer winner to date is Oscar Wao and by jingo I struggled with that.
So, despite this being billed as “A masterwork of comedy…” by the New York Times Book Review, I was still very wary. What sort of comedy? What sort of comedy wins a posthumous Pulitzer for it’s author?
So, on to the book. No, this is not a review. I haven’t finished it yet. I’m at page sixty-four of over 300.
It is funny. Very funny. I have no true cultural connection to the US, so therefore not to New Orleans and the sorts of characters who may have been wandering its streets in the early 1960s. But I feel like I am almost living there. Seriously, I have been giggling aloud like an errant schoolgirl. I’m only 64 pages in and it has been a relentless smirk and giggle-fest.
Take this short passage as an example. The setting is a seedy nightclub, the Night of Joy. The characters, a young boy has just entered and is talking about a business deal with the owner, Lana Lee. Jones, to whom he addresses his comments is a “colored” man, ex-“vagran” and now janitor at The Night of Joy being paid under the “minimal” wage. But he is no pushover.
The boy and Lana smiled at each other.
“I get the picture,” Lana said and winked.
“Hey, you a junkie?” the boy called to Jones. “You look like a junkie to me.”
“You be lookin pretty junky with a Night of Joy broom stickin out your ass,” Jones said very slowly. “Night of Joy broom old, they good and splintery.”
Now it could just be my infantile sense of humour being indulged, but I don’t think so. The whole book has been full of gems like this. Ignatius J. Reilly, the main character, is at once laughable, slapable and pitiable. Frankly at the moment I’m going to and fro between laughing at him and wanting to slap him silly. But he is memorable, perhaps for all the wrong sorts of reason. Here is how we are introduced to him.
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. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.
It doesn’t improve from here.
Ignatius himself was dressed comfortably and sensibly. The hunting cap prevented head colds. The voluminous tweed trousers were durable and permitted unusually free locomotion. Their pleats and nooks contained pockets of warm stale air that soothed Ignatius. The plaid flannel shirt made a jacket unnecessary while the muffler guarded exposed Reilly skin between earflap and collar. The outfit was acceptable by any theological and geometrical standards, however abstruse, and suggested a rich inner life.
Unless the book heads downhill from here, I can happily recommend that you take a trip to the library and bring this one home. My review will be up over at 1001 Books To Read Before You Die in due course. I’d love to hear your opinion on it too, so drop a comment here (or there, once there is a there).