I don't tend to just read a book. I devour it. I luxuriate in it. I get deeply engrossed. I find myself pondering the characters as I go about my day, their cadence and vocabulary slipping into my own thoughts and speech, and even invading my dreams. I think that my manner of reading contributes to this total immersion...I tote my book around with me wherever I go, greedily snatching a few minutes of the story whenever I can, like as I wait for my children outside of their school, or fall asleep every night in the middle of the very last sentence that my tired eyes can possibly be made to comprehend. So I read my one book at a time (I'm definitely a monogamous reader!), a paragraph here and a chapter there, and in between times the characters are present with me as I go about my day...and lately I've been hangin' with Ignatius.
Ignatius J. Reilly that is. Yes, I've been reading A Confederacy of Dunces.
A monument of sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. In magnificent revolt against the twentieth century, Ignatius propels his monstrous bulk among the flesh posts of the fallen city, documenting life on his Big Chief tablets as he goes, until his maroon-haired mother decrees that Ignatius must work.
What a character! Colourful? Chit. Colourful doesn't even begin to cover Ignatius. He has made for a strange bedfellow these past couple of weeks. He smells funny. He takes up a lot of room. He fills me with perverse desires to complain about my valve and the wheel of Fortuna, and to call for anyone who opposes me to be flogged. I am tempted to take to wearing a green hunting cap and voluminous plaid scarf, although after much consideration I've decided that a plastic hoop earring might be a little too much...
I loved this book, and not just for Ignatius. It is blisteringly well written, and the tragic/comic characters ricochet off of each other in a plot so improbable that it seems somehow completely inevitable. I laughed out loud, and squirmed uncomfortably, perhaps in equal measure. I gobbled it up, belching heartily in honour of Ignatius, and am now left savouring the experience, as I slobber over the last few crumbs.
This book has been on my "should read" list for ages. One of those books that has become part of pop culture, an iconic main character, a tragic author, a posthumous Pulitzer prize...one of those books you really ought to read, but probably won't if you don't have the impetus of a book report about it due on Friday. I've been reading quite a few of those "must read" books in the last little while, and each one has been a revelation and a reward...The Bell Jar, Slaughterhouse 5 and A Confederacy of Dunces are now firmly ensconced on my personal all time favourites list. There are reasons why those certain really important novels have wormed their way deep into our social culture...they are really frakken' good!
So your homework assignment, boys and girls, put down that TV remote / get off the interwebs / step away from that copy of Twilight (!), and pick up a book off of your "really should read" list...it doesn't matter if it's Moby Dick or Naked Lunch, Charles Dickens or Jack Kerouac, pick something that piques your curiosity and suits your particular taste...and read. Read like the dickens, read like your book is water and you are in the desert, read like literacy is a precious gift and a truly good story in the hands of a master storyteller is one of the greatest treasures, soul foods and tickets to escape the mundane and prosaic every day that there is.
(pictures by Chris Chua and Mark Martin courtesy of Hey Oscar Wilde! It's clobberin' time!!!)
11 hours ago