Starving Review: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole


A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (Amazon, Goodreads)

What the deuce, you say?  The Starving Reviewer stooping to reviewing a classic?  Well, as I have talked about in the past, every chef needs to study the culinary masters to do the best possible job at their craft.  It was time I put my advice to others into personal advice.  That and Mr. Toole’s absurdist comedy of errors has been touted to me as one of those masterpieces worthy of the title.  Is this the brilliant and tasty feast it’s touted to be?

Before we crack the shell of this egg, let us review the Starving Reviewer’s creed:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible

So, there are classical meals you eat because they’re good for you.  They help you understand the recipes of writing and become better at what you do, but they really aren’t that tasty.  Then there are meals like this.  Dunces is both a masterful recipe on a technical level; it’s a delightful insane romp through the kitchen.  While it primarily rests on its absurd, yet strangely believable, characters, there’s a considerable bit else that makes this the masterpiece it is.

The plot seems to be a meandering sprinkling of random spices and flavors at the start, but between the sense of history imparted to the vast cast as well as a slow and steady weaving together of elements, it ends up into a thick, sturdy cloth, as bountiful as the girth of our protagonist.  Speaking of that, our protagonist (certainly not a hero!) is endearing in his near-insanity, certainly begging comparison to a certain man from La Mancha, and despite the lack of traditional heroic characteristics, is deeply engaging, like that giant bowl of double-fudge ice cream that you know is horrible for you, but you can’t step away from.

Between the sharp narrative, keenly woven plots, and cast of unique characters, Dunces delivers on all aspects of what should be called a classic.  There is really nothing more I could add to an analysis that better chefs and better critics than I have done.  The only thing that remains is to encourage you, if you have not already done so, to break out the knife and fork to dig into this bountiful feast!

FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A delightfully absurd meal that delivers on all aspects of what should be called a classic!)

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