Tagged: John Kennedy Toole

Quickies: The Plague of Doves & A Confederacy of Dunces

Audiobook cover: The Plague of Doves by Louise ErdrichThe Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Audiobook Publisher/Year: HarperAudio, 2009
Narrators: Peter Francis James & Kathleen McInerney
Source: Library

What it is: The brutal murder of a white family on a farm in North Dakota sends an angry group of men out to the nearby Ojibwe reservation in search of the murderer. The injustice of what happens will have repercussions for years to come. Two generations later, a part-Ojibwe/part-white girl named Evalina is trying to piece together her family’s involvement in what happened.

Why I listened to it: I’d never read anything by Erdrich before, and I picked it up on a whim when I saw it at the library.

What I thought: Parts of this book were positively breathtaking–I was often stunned by Erdrich’s poetic prose. Unfortunately, I can’t say this about the book as a whole. There is a lot to keep track of: multiple genrations, multiple narrators, side plots, etc. I wonder if it would have been easier to follow along if I’d read the book because I usually have no problem juggling different characters and plots. I read somewhere that the book originally started as short stories. If that’s the case, I can see how the book turned out somewhat disjointed; read as stories, some of the chapters would have come off as phenomenal. Overall, I didn’t not like it, but it wouldn’t be the first Erdrich book I’d recommend to people.

If this book were a beverage, it would be: whiskey.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Publisher/Year: Grove Press, 2002 (reprint)
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

What it is: A tragicomedy about the misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an obese, offensive, haughty 30-year-old medievalist who lives with his mother in New Orleans. He’s often mistaken for a vagrant because of his unkempt appearance, and he can’t hold down a job, but that doesn’t stop him from looking down upon everyone.

Why I read it: For my Pulitzer Project.

What I thought: I kind of don’t even know what to say. Toole was a talented writer, and so much of this book is hilarious; the secondary cast of characters takes Ignatius everywhere, from jail to a second-rate strip club, to the flamboyant, wealthy gay scene in the French Quarter. The book is fantastic in small doses, but if I tried to read it for long stretches of time it started to get on my nerves. I spent most of my time wanted to strangle Ignatius, but I was also dumbfounded by the extent of his willful obtuseness. I really have to hand it to the 1981 Pulitzer voters for going so far off the beaten path and choosing Confederacy as the winner for that year.

If this book were a food, it would be: a hot dog.


Book Beginnings: 8/19/11

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by A Few More Pages.

I’m finally reading John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces! It’s part of my Pulitzer Project, but it’s also a book that I’ve been wanting to read for about seven years, ever since it was referenced in Sideways (love that movie!). This is from the first paragraph:

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 in to little folds with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly’s supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress.

I’m almost halfway through and I’m enjoying the book so far. It’s funny and smartly written, and considering all the nonfiction I’m currently reading, it’s a welcome break from all that heavier stuff.