A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Re-reading this book after many years I had forgotten that its author, John Kennedy Toole, had committed suicide at the age of 31 in 1969. He had been trying unsuccessfuly to get it published for about six years, and became so depressed after many rejections that he took his own life. It was only through the tenacity of his own mother that the book was eventually published in 1980 and found the audience it deserved. It has since been recognised as one of the great American novels and deservedly won the Pullitzer Prize in 1981
It’s hero – or should that be anti-hero – Ignatius Reilly, is one of the great characters of English literature, a slob extroardinaire, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one, who is in violent revolt against the entire modern world, lying in his flannel nightshirt, in a back bedroom on Constantinople Street in New Orleans, who in between gigantic seizures of flatulence is filling dozens of notebooks with invective.
His mother thinks he needs a job; he does a succession of jobs, each rapidly escalating into a lunatic adventure, a full-blown disaster, yet each one has its own eerie logic. Ignatius is an intellectual,idealogue,deadbeat, goof-off, glutton, with thunderous contempt for for almost everybody; homosexuals, heterosexuals, Freud, Protestants, workers, bosses and the assorted excesses of modern times. A great rumbling Falstaffian farce of a book is the only way I can describe it and the shame is that Toole never lived to see the fruits of his labours. Read it and weep – with laughter!
The first chapter of a book I am working on.
BIGMAC RIDES AGAIN
The minister for fun was angry. His cheeks had gone bright red he was so angry. Someone had stolen the games book. Now all the fun would have to be cancelled. No more four-legged races, no more snail marathons, no more trampoline highs, no more egg-and-spoon skating handicaps – in fact no more nothing. Without the book it was out of the question. He did the one thing he didn’t want to do. He sent for BIGMAC.
‘Size fifty four, sir, is…unusual.’ The little man in the Large Bodies department of Harrison and Tweed looked up worriedly. ‘You are very big’
‘Of course I am’ snapped BIGMAC. ‘It is my job to be big. It would look very silly if I was called BIGMAC and was only your size now, wouldn’t it’
‘Then get on with it man. I won’t bite you’
Although it looked as if he might. He pulled out a large turnip-shaped watch and shook it. ‘I sincerely hope this won’t take long. I have an appointment with the Minister for fun at precisely’… he shook the watch vigorously…’very soon’
‘I shall be finished in four shakes of a cat’s tail’
‘Lamb’s tail. The expression is five shakes of a lamb’s tail’ He continued to shake the watch.
‘Perhaps sir should invest in a new time-piece. I understand that the new ones give you not only the time, but also the weather forecast and the football scores’
‘Yes. I’ve seen them. Scattered rain and scoury showers. Arsenal 4, Leicester 1. I can’t be doing with all that nonsense’ He held up the watch.
‘Anyway, this isn’t really a watch. Oh, it tells the time – sometimes – and it is correct at least twice a day, but it’s not what you call a watch, as such’.
‘What would sir call it?’
‘It’s a…’ He looked at the little man suspiciously. ‘You mean you have never seen one of these…objects before?’.
The little man shook his head, and continued his walk around BIGMAC, watching the reading on his digital tape measure. Satisfied, he punched the reading into the tailoring machine. Continue reading
The following is an extract from my book of short stories THE MISSING POSTMAN AND OTHER STORIES.
Seagulls screech at the sound of the approaching car, and its headlights pick them out wheeling away into the darkness. Martin Og shakes a fist at them as he drives to a stop near the front door of the weather-beaten cottage.
‘You might be the souls of dead fishermen but that won’t stop me blowing your bloody heads off the next time I get a clear shot at one of you’.
The only response is the inevitable splat on his front bonnet, before they vanish into the twilight. He gets out and slams the door, slinging his knapsack on his shoulder, and, ignoring the mess on the car front, limps to the front door.
He inserts a key and opens it, listening for a few moments before reaching in and switching on the room light
‘Blackie! Blackie! Where the feck are you gone to now?
The lights reveal a room that is in a terrible state; rubbish and stale food litter the table and chairs, bags of waste and empty whiskey bottles are stacked high against one wall. The paper on the walls is peeling, the photos and pictures faded. In fact the whole room looks as if it hasn’t been tidied for many years.
Against the back wall is a dresser, adorned with some faded willow-pattern crockery. An old fashioned radio sits on the dresser. Some hunting gear – a mixture of nets and traps – hang on one wall .A large square net, of the kind that sea fishermen use, hangs suspended from one half of the ceiling There is also a battered acoustic guitar and a ten-gallon hat hanging on pegs either side of the passageway. Two armchairs are situated in the shadows, one at either end of the room, their backs facing Martin Og.
He looks at them in puzzlement, first one then the other, but his puzzlement is almost immediately superseded by a look of grief when he spots the body of a dog lying between them. The dirty black beret he wears is whipped from his head, revealing a shock of white hair beneath. He lets the knapsack fall from his grasp as he hobbles towards the body.
‘Ah Blackie. Ah Jesus, Blackie…’
He picks the dog up in his arms and cradles it for a moment, then sits on a bentwood chair rocking the dog in his lap. He uses the beret to wipe the dog’s face.
He doesn’t notice for a moment as the two armchairs swivel round to face him. When he looks up he sees two figures seated in them
Both are in their early/mid twenties, and both are dressed in the trendy, designer-conscious manner of their peers. The man is cradling a shotgun in his arms; the girl has a metal strongbox resting on her lap, a handgun in her hand. She taps the box with the gun.
‘We need the key, Martin’.
‘Martin?’ He pauses. ‘Did you kill my dog?’
‘He was old’
Martin rises. ‘You killed my fucking dog…..’ The man raises the shotgun. ‘Be careful with that, it’s …not insured’.
‘Not insured, he says!’ The man laughs. ‘Look at it! What’s to insure?
‘I’ve got insurance. Lots of insurance’
‘Yeah, fire insurance’. The girls looks around the room. ‘You got any fire insurance, Martin?’
‘Martin?’ You keep calling me Martin. Who are you people?’
The girl smiles at him this time, a big mouthful of pearl-white teeth. ‘Sorry. We should have introduced ourselves earlier. I’m Zoe. And that specimen over there is Zeb. Zeb and Zoe’. She smiles again. ‘Now, you got any fire insurance?’
Martin is beginning to think he must be in the throes of a nightmare. Surely he will wake up soon? ‘No. No fire insurance’.
‘Pity. Then you could burn the place down with impunity’
‘Why would I want to do that?’
Another laugh from Zoe. ‘Well, I mean…look at it!’
‘Impunity. That’s a good word.’ Zeb laughs softly
‘You like it, Zeb’.
‘Yeah, it’s cool. Burn the place down with impunity…I like that.’
‘Bet it all goes up like a bonfire’.
‘You reckon?Maybe we should…’