Friday, January 2, 2009

A Confederacy of Dunces Tour

If you're here, you probably know a thing or two about A Confederacy of Dunces and Ignatius J. Reilly. If you don't, please stay, read a bit, and then pick up the book.
A Confederacy of Dunces was written by John Kennedy Toole in the mid- and late-1960's and he committed suicide in 1969, before the book was published. Its tragic that we lost such a talented writer before his genius was even recognized. His mother took the manuscript to Walker Percy, a professor at Loyola University, and asked him for his help in getting it published. Percy had seen plenty of unpublished manuscripts and was frankly skeptical that this one would be any better than the stack of underwhelming novels he had already seen. What Percy found was that the deeper he read, the more he liked it. Percy helped Toole's mother get it published and Confederacy went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1980.

Confederacy is set in New Orleans and is written in such a way that the city itself becomes one of the characters in it. I have yet to read a book that captures the spirit of New Orleans as fully. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did a magnificant job of capturing Savannah, but not even Anne Rice is up to Toole's mettle.

The title of the book comes from a line in an epigraph by Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." The main character of Confederacy is Ignatius J. Reilly who truly believes that dunces everywhere are in confederacy against him.

I've gone through Confederacy and noted every location in which Toole mentions. In August 2008, I visited New Orleans and chronicled every location I could find. Where applicable, I tried to give you a little history of the sites, as well as a couple photos. I think I've found every place he mentioned, but if you think I've missed one, please let me know.
Also, I think I've nailed down the exact time in which the book was set.

Read on and take a tour of A Confederacy of Dunces...

14 comments:

  1. great site...good to put pictures to places in the book.

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  2. Todd, I haven't read this novel but you've made me want to read it. I lived in N.O. until the age of 17, which was in 1969, the same year in which Toole died...(Like you, I've also lived in Atlanta.) Anyway, thanks so much!!
    P.S. I believe you sent me a welcome message in Wikipedia, and this is how I found your blog.

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  3. Dear Todd,
    I just finished reading A Confederacy of Dunces and LOVED IT! You must have spent a LOT of time coming up with all this information! Kudos!
    I'm going to NOLA this weekend and hope to see some of the sites you've listed on here. THANKS!

    Natalie

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  4. hey todd, I was delighted to find your blog after reading A Confederacy of Dunces. I even wrote about your blog over at blog.nextstop.com

    I'm planning a trip to New Orleans in the coming months, and I look forward to exploring some of Ignatius' haunts!

    Josh

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  5. Hi Todd,
    I'm writing from Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle, WA. We are a non-profit theatre that brings literary works to the stage. This season we are doing a production of A Confederacy of Dunces and are interested in using some of the photos from your blog in our program and/or lobby display -- to enrich our patrons' experience with the show. We would, of course, credit your work and provide links to your blog on our website (www.book-it.org). Please email me at info@book-it.org if you are willing to discuss this.

    Thank you and LOVE your blog (we already have a link on our Facebook account)! Rachel W.

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  6. Last night I saw the play Rachel refers to above. The images from New Orleans are posted on a wall, brightly lit, with a map showing the location of each. This added a nice touch to the lobby, setting the mood for the play--which was excellent. It was very exciting to see one of my favorite works finally onstage, especially after it eluded production for so long. Congratulations to Book-It Theatre!

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  7. My name is Yancey and I am looking to get in contact with Todd. I am a student in Seattle and would like to speak with Todd in reguards to a school project about the book. My email address is yanceymccoy@yahoo.com.

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  8. Hi Todd - how cool is this? I'm traveling to New Orleans next month and was looking to see some out of the way places. This fits the bill! Thanks.

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  9. Thanks for this great blog. I think you're spot on with a lot of your references. Toole really knew his New Orleans...

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  10. Great work. Do you know if the locations are accessible by streetcar or is a rental car the only way to go? I hear parking is a chore.
    If you could email me at hamdulellah@hotmail.com I would appreciate it. thanks. Adriana

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  12. Found your site through the CoD Facebook page. Love what you've done here. I share your love of this classic American novel. I can actually recall seeing Ms. Toole on the Johnny Carson show in 1981 when the book won the Pulitzer. I kid you not, she was wearing white gloves!

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  13. Maybe you could add a google lit trip!!!
    http://www.googlelittrips.com/

    How cool would that be?

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  14. Just flew in from New Orleans last night. I was there for the first time two years ago. At that time I had some ideas about the city and it's layout from the James Lee Burke novels (which are great) However; this time I read a good whack of COD before I left, a bit there in the hotel room, and finished it on the plane. I really feel like I enjoyed both the city and the book so much more for having done that. Hell I recognized the statue of Ignatius and the DH Holmes clock from down the street. I'm certain I walked right past them the last time. Also, I felt compelled to take dozens of pictures of hotdog venders on their corners. My girlfriend even bought one of them a birthday cake.

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