“A Confederacy of Dunces” in many respects is like a deep underground guide to New Orleans. In the book, author and native John Kennedy Toole showcased the city’s grandeur and its decay. Toole’s rendering of the city’s seeming contradictions is brought to life in protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly. In a forward to the book, author Walter Percy calls Ignatius a “slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one — who is in violent revolt against the entire modern age.”
Beloved by New Orleanians, the book is honored with a bronze statue of Ignatius under the clock at 800 Canal Street, former site the D.H. Holmes Department Store. In the opening scene of the book, Ignatius waits for his mother, dressed in a green hunting cap, muffler and flannel shirt, holding a Werlein’s bag.
The book’s impact was felt beyond the city. “Confederacy” has been compared to the works of Charles Dickens and is considered a staple of Southern Literature. Toole won a posthumos Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1981.
Toole killed himself in 1969 at age 39. The book was published only after Toole’s mother, Thelma, found a copy of the manuscript and insisted that Percy, then a professor at Loyola, read it. LSU Press published the book in 1980.