TO READ ON A BALCONY
IN THE VIEUX CARRE - -
By Doc Lawrence
There are events in our lives that have a joyous impact. My personal
favorite remains that glorious weekend years ago in the French Quarter
when I read John Kennedy Tooles remarkable Pulitzer Prize winner,
A Confederacy of Dunces. Looking back at those days of
uninterrupted page turning, I truly believe this book made me want
to be a better writer. I know the glorious story about all the zany
characters forever changed how I view New Orleans.
The author killed himself at age 31, leaving a grieving mother with
the task of completing the publication of his manuscript which she
accomplished with the help of another New Orleans denizen, Walker Percy.
The book became an instant hit with an international fan base. While
living in Scarborough, England, I rarely met anyone who hadnt
read it. Confederacy became a means of cultivating acquaintance
The centerpiece of Tooles masterpiece is the remarkable Ignatius
J. Reilly,an overweight young man who freeloads off his widowed mother,
Irene. Ignatius charts an indictment of the Twentieth Century believing
that medieval England provided the perfect forum for his intellect
and values. This results in turmoil that nearly cripples the French
Quarter and causes poor Irene countless heartaches. The title for this
classic book about the Crescent City comes from the pen of Jonathan
Swift: When a true genius appears in the world you may know him
by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him.
Unlike the sadness that dominated Tooles short life, his book
is uplifting and great comedy.
We knew little about Toole. However, a splendid biography, Ignatius
Rising, (Louisiana State University Press), by Rene Pol Nevils
and Deborah George Hardy, just appeared on retail shelves and is as
interesting as the farce written by the young author. Be forewarned:
read A Confederacy
before searching for aspects of
Tooles tragic few moments on this planet.
There is a statue of Ignatius on Canal Street a short distance from
the posh Ritz Carlton. I still find myself laughing when I see it.
Tooles literary genius has everlasting impact, particularly if
you happen to love New Orleans.