a copy of a new edition of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces [excerpt], a novel I’d always avoided. I don’t exactly remember why I avoided it – all that remains is a shadowy idea that I was afraid the story behind the book would be more compelling than the work itself. If you’re unaware of the story, the novel was written by a young writer named John Kennedy Toole who committed suicide – with the manuscript still unpublished among his papers – and only later did his mother submit it for consideration to an English professor she met.
In any case, I’ve been reading it for the past few days, and I’m really glad I got over my avoidance – it’s simply beautiful. Confederacy features one of the oddest protagonists since (oddly enough) the Scarlet and the Black, a guy who has really gotten under my skin – who I want to hold by the shoulders and physically shake before he frustrates me any more. But it’s not the writing that’s frustrating – it’s the character, well-drawn.