author C.C.Cole's blog

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On the Confederacy of Genius

When I do interviews about being an author, the often-asked question is “What is your favorite novel?”  That’s always a tough question to answer, and for me, I’m inspired by almost all fiction and non-fiction when it comes to my writing.  Films inspire me as well, with the many years of migraine headaches had me looking at a screen less stressful then reading words in books, so for many years, I didn’t read many books. 

I come from a family of educators from my mother’s side of the family, and my aunt, her sister, now a retired high school history teacher, is well known to us for being well read and never reading fiction.  But I remember her telling me in the early 80s about the book “A Confederacy of Dunces.”  She told me to make sure I read it, and guaranteed it would have my side aching with laughter. 

Impressed with this recommendation from a family member that reads only historic texts and made this novel an exception, back then I went with her recommendation.  I didn’t laugh as I read.  I didn’t giggle.  I threw the book down, laughing uncontrollably with tears running down my face, only to pick it up again to start the second chapter.  When I met my future husband, our early relationship wasn’t hurt by me seeing a copy of this one-of-a-kind novel proudly displayed with his hardback copies of “Lord of the Rings.” 

To summarize the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, published and rewarded following the tragic suicide of author John Kennedy Toole (see the forward by Walker Percy), the lead character Ignatius Reilly begins the story standing on Canal Street in New Orleans, obese, dressed in out-of-season bizarre clothing, looking for distaste in others.  From there, a large cast of characters are introduced while the reader laughs through the pages, finding out in the end how and why each character has an important but hilarious role in the story. 

When I think about “A Confederacy of Dunces” I get angry with myself about forgetting to mention it in more interviews.  For a novel so “unforgettable” how can one forget it?  I think it’s because there’s nothing like it out there.  I lived in the New Orleans area for a while and can connect Toole’s descriptions with the housing and the details of the city still present today.  In checking about films based upon this outstanding work, like so many originals, Hollywood isn’t ready to take the leap of faith to make a film from it.  As I think about it, while it’s disappointing the film industry hasn’t tried, but with this level of masterpiece the translation into film would be a most difficult task.

Readers of all genres, if you haven’t read “A Confederacy of Dunces” I highly recommend that you check this out.  I haven’t met anyone that didn’t like it yet, though naysayers are everywhere.  In thinking of the author Toole committing suicide because no one would publish his work, I think now he would like to see laughter from his work than the sadness it came from.  Meet Ignatius Reilly, the zany cast of characters, and as they say in New Orleans, “Let the Good Times Roll.”

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