ha ha ha ha ha
I don't know what I thought this book was going to be about, especially as it was a Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction in 1981. Often, award winning books are, important or precious. This was more of Seinfeld meets Abbot and Costello. How have I never heard of Ignatius J Reilly before? Because he is a character like no other in popular fiction and hopefully not in real life either. I was feeling a little of the eccentricity of Kramer crossed with the boorishness of George Costanza. So I laughed. A lot.
The story behind the novel is quite tragic. Toole wrote the book and tried to get it published for years. After his suicide, his mother persevered and the book was eventually published, but this is the only book by Toole. Full of interesting characters, Ignatius spreads havoc wherever he goes. A thirty year old still living home in one of the most dysfunctional mother-son relationships, Ignatius is educated, and delusional. His adventures begin when his mother insists he needs to get a job to help out with money.
As Ignatius goes through several jobs he meets more interesting characters. (Quite honestly, all these southern books are scaring me a little. I know there are stereotypes at play, but are southerners truly this strange? I remember the old Burt Reynolds comedy with oddballs wandering around and thinking, how strange. Does nobody work? How many eccentrics can be in one small town?) All the characters and their seemingly disparate lives will eventually be connected, just like the best of the Seinfeld episodes. New Orleans is a character itself, but I couldn't help thinking how different the city is probably now after Hurricane Katrina.
I loved all the minor characters, especially Patrolman Mancuso and his undercover assignments, and the sub story involving the homosexual community on Bourbon Street, not that there is anything wrong with that. I seemed unusual for a book written in the sixties to include such references; it felt more modern.
This counts for my third Southern Reading Challenge book and it is also an Award Winning Book for that challenge. Well worth the read and a nice diversion in the summer.