Excerpts from "A Confederacy of Dunces"

Here are some excerpts from "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. There are many funny moments in this book. I highly recommend reading it.

This is the opening 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 into little folds filled 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. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person's lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one's soul.

Here Ignatius is trying to convince his boss that his hotdogs were stolen by an adolescent, who held a pistol against his head.

"Perhaps he was very hungry. Perhaps some vitamin deficiency in his growing body was screaming for appeasement. The human desire for food and sex is relatively equal. If there are armed rapes, why should there not be armed hot dog thefts? I see nothing unusual in the matter."

"You are full of bullshit" [says the boss]

"I? The incident is sociologically valid. The blame rests upon our society. The youth, crazed by suggestive television programs and lascivious periodicals, had apparently been consorting with some rather conventional adolescent females who refused to participate in his imaginative sexual program. His unfulfilled physical desires therefore sought sublimation in food. I, unfortunately, was the victim of all this. We may thank God that this boy has turned to food for an outlet. Had he not, I might have been raped right there on the spot."

Here Ignatius is explaining what should be studied for a proper education.

"Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age," Ignatius said solemnly. "Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books.... I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he's found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman."

In this scene Ignatius is arguing with his mother who is threatening to send him to a psychiatric hospital.

"They [psychiatrists] would try to make me into a moron who liked television and new cars and frozen food. Don't you understand? Psychiatry is worse than communism. I refuse to be brainwashed. I won't be a robot!... The only problem that those people [psychiatric patients] have anyway is that they don't like new cars and hair sprays. That's why they are put away. They make the other members of the society fearful. Every asylum in this nation is filled with poor souls who simply cannot stand lanolin, cellophane, plastic, television, and subdivisions."

"Ignatius, that ain't true. You remember old Mr. Becnel used to live down the block? They locked him up because he was running down the street naked."

"Of course he was running down the street naked. His skin could not bear any more of that Dacron and nylon clothing that was clogging his pores. I've always considered Mr. Becnel one of the martyrs of our age. The poor man was badly victimized."

To his mother, Ignatius once says: "It's not your fate to be well treated...You're an overt masochist. Nice treatment will confuse and destroy you."

In this scene Ignatius has a run in with some women showing their art at a church.

Ignatius lumbered over to the picket fence, abandoning the hopeless cause espoused by the wagon, and viewed the oil paintings and pastels and watercolors strung there. Although the style of each varied in crudity, the subjects of the paintings were relatively similar: camellias floating in bowls of water, azaleas tortured into ambitious flower arrangements, magnolias that looked like white windmills. Ignatius scrutinized the offerings furiously for a while all by himself, for the ladies had stepped back from the fence and had formed what looked like a protective little grouping. The wagon, too, stood forlorn on the flagstones, several feet from the newest member of the art guild.

"Oh, my God!" Ignatius bellowed after he had promenaded up and down along the fence. "How dare you present such abortions to the public."

"Please move along, sir," a bold lady said.

"Magnolias don't look like that," Ignatius said, thrusting his cutlass at the offending pastel magnolia. "You ladies need a course in botany. And perhaps geometry, too."

"You don't have to look at our work," an offended voice said from the group, the voice of the lady who had drown the magnolia in question.

"Yes, I do!" Ignatius screamed. "You ladies need a critic with some taste and decency. Good heavens! Which one of you did this camellia? Speak up. The water in this bowl looks like motor oil."

"Let us alone," a shrill voice said.

"You women had better stop giving teas and brunches and settle down to the business of learning how to draw," Ignatius thundered. "First, you must learn how to handle a brush. I would suggest that you all get together and paint someone's house for a start."

"Go away."

"Had you 'artists' had a part in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, it would have ended up looking like a particularly vulgar train terminal," Ignatius snorted.

"We don't intend to be insulted by a coarse vendor," a spokeswoman for the band of large hats said haughtily.

"I see!" Ignatius screamed. "So it is you people who slander the reputation of the hot dog vendor."

"He's mad."

"He's so common."

"So coarse."

"Don't encourage him."

"We don't want you here," the spokeswoman said tartly and simply.

"I should imagine not!" Ignatius was breathing heavily. "Apparently you are afraid of someone who has some contact with reality, who can truthfully describe to you the offenses which you have committed to canvas."

"Please leave," the spokeswoman ordered.

"I shall." Ignatius grabbed the handle of his cart and pushed off. "You women should all be on your knees begging forgiveness for what I have seen here on this fence."

Ignatius commenting on his ex-girlfriend Myrna

Her logic was a combination of half-truths and cliches, her worldview a compound of misconceptions deriving from a history of our nation as written from the perspective of a subway tunnel.... Myrna was, you see, terribly engaged in her society; I, on the other hand, older and wiser, was terribly dis-engaged.

Ignatius talking with a policeman

"What's this hanging out your bag?" [says the policeman]

"What do you think it is, stupid? It's a string for my lute."

"What's that?" The policeman drew back a little. "Are you local?"

"Is it the part of the police department to harass me when this city is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world?" Ignatius bellowed over the crowd in front of the store. "This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, Antichrists, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. If you have a moment, I shall endeavor to discuss the crime problem with you, but don't make the mistake of bothering me.