My (anti) hero

Through the years, my brother has recommended many good books to me. Some of them were tough reads, and what I’ve learned about highly recommended tough reads if I give up on them is that I should revisit them sometime later. A lot of books that I adored as a young adult didn’t have the same luster when I reread them after getting older, so I assumed, correctly, that the opposite could be true. Some books just have to come along at the right time in your life, which is why I continue to reread a lot of the classics that bored me (especially as a teenager). As an adult, I’ve understood how brilliantly they were written and could appreciate them on a level that was beyond me as a youngster.

However, one book David recommended hooked me from the first page, and every time I reread it, I relish it just as much. I can pick it up any time, open to any page, and I’ll start laughing at my favorite anti-hero and one of the most colorful casts of characters ever assembled. It is, as you might surmise from the photo, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. It never stops delighting me.

When the book opens, narrator Ignatius J. Reilly is about to get into a contretemps in front of New Orleans’ D.H. Holmes Department Store.

The store closed in 1989, and later the building became the Chateau Sonesta Hotel, now the Hyatt French Quarter. The hotel entrance is on Iberville Street, but if you walk down the back side, on Canal Street, you’ll see this wonderful statue.

It’s based on a portrayal by actor John McConnell of Ignatius in the book’s opening scene, waiting for his mother under the D.H. Holmes clock and surveying the passing pedestrians with disdain. The statue makes me smile whenever I see it, much like the Lucky Dogs carts I pass–they being the basis for “Paradise Hot Dogs,” one of Ignatius’s several employers during the course of the novel.

I know for many people, New Orleans is about partying, eating, and hearing great music. But I love it most for its literary gems, among whom John Kennedy Toole and his novel are the brightest.

ETA: By the way, they usually put the statue in storage during Mardi Gras, so that’s no time to see it.


8 thoughts on “My (anti) hero”

  1. Read the book years ago on the advice of a friend (same friend who recommended Ferrol Sams’ Porter Osborne, Jr. trilogy while we browsed together a used book store in Chicago). Read it again last year. Saw the statue when we went to N.O. for this year’s disastrous Sugar Bowl. I somehow pictured Ignatius as a heftier man, but I didn’t know the character/statue had been portrayed by an actor in a movie. Ate a Lucky Dog just so I could say, “Ate a dog from the carts that were the inspiration for Paradise Hot Dogs.” Son, Michael, thought the statue was a street performer. “Leave him alone, Dad, he’s just trying to do his thing.” I said, “Son,” knocked on Ignatius’ head and said, “Really?”

    1. I’m just going to say again that if you wrote your memoirs–or kept a blog–I’d read it with pleasure. I’m the opposite of Michael, btw, and have several times been fooled by street performers who I didn’t know were real until they moved. And I once watched a performer in Gatlinburg for a while who DID move and I still didn’t think he was real.

  2. And I’m the rain on this parade, because I really really really didn’t like this book, although many people whose opinions I respect think it’s fabulous. Maybe someday I’ll give it another try.

    1. A little rain never hurt anything. I know a couple of people who refuse to read it, and a couple who can’t stand it. Vive la diffĂ©rence!

  3. I haven’t read A Confederacy of Dunces, but I do find it rare to find statues based on fictional characters. My favorite was the tea party from Alice in Wonderland, in The Golden Square shopping mall in Warrington.

    1. I like statues based on fictional characters. I suppose those characters are as real to many of us as some of those people who lived hundreds of years ago.

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