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Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide


"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole



• Sandra Day O’Connor sworn in as first female Supreme Court justice
• IBM Personal Computer intro, tech created in part by Black inventor Mark Dean



An overbearing mother’s persistence is why “A Confederacy of Dunces” was published after Ken Toole’s suicide. Ken was an only child who grew up in New Orleans.


Lynn Hoban, Collingswood, NJ

Featured Reader

“The cast of characters in Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces represents members of society who are typically marginalized including those who are overweight, old, minorities, LGBTQ, socio-economically disadvantaged, etc. The reader can empathize with the novel’s characters as they encounter madcap scenarios and predicaments where no inclusion exists.

The protagonist, Ignatius, is outrageously narcissistic and self-unaware. Jones, my favorite and the most hilarious character in the book, is completely realistic about the limitations he faces in life because for him, inclusion does not exist. Mr. Levy is willing to look at circumstances from various angles to understand why the other characters behave in a certain way.

A Confederacy of Dunces is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book you will enjoy immensely and one you will not soon forget. Toole brings to light the significant impact discrimination has on fellow human beings in society who happen to be different from those who belong to the mainstream, ruling class.”

Lynn’s Inclusive Cause: Tyler Clementi Foundation Bullying Prevention


Wacky failure-to-lauch son tries on jobs in New Orleans


12” of Paradise Hot Dog cart sign.


Lampoon of the foolishness of the educated and people with power in the context of people trying to get by, be treated fairly and have a good time. Characters write satire like “The Journal of a Working Boy,” “Roberta E. Lee presents Harlett O’Hara,” “M. Minkoff speaks boldly about Sex in Politics: Erotic Liberty as a Weapon Against Reactionaries,” and “Twelve (12) inches of Paradise.”


405 fast-moving pages or a fabulous 13.5 hour spoken performance


Think about the wrapper. Instead of judging appearance and behavior, imagine the why: fit-in, stand-out, aspiration, resources, cultural custom, time-crunch, weather, comfort, parental modeling, etc.


Characters are disenfranchised and eccentric. People with power unmasked.


Two giant bags of potato chips for someone to sit on, two fifths of Early Times and six pack of Seven-Up, and a batch of potato salad with serving spoon that you’ve licked.


“I imagine you’d like to become a success or something equally vile.”


The seediest bar you can handle. BYO pastry.


What is the author telling us by focusing on the clothing worn by Ignatius, Irene Reilly, Dorian, Darlene, the sailor, cowboy, and the Patrolman?
What is your response to the dialog of the Black and gay characters and the writing of Ignatius and Myrna?
What are your thoughts on the “psychic rejuvenation” tactics Mrs. Levy employs with Trixie?
What is the point of the focus on the Divine Right and Sodomite political parties and obsession of a character with the “Communiss”?


New Orleans. Check out the statue of Ignatius J. Reilly and the iconic clock at 821 Canal Street in New Orleans where the D.H. Holmes department store was once located. Or buy a hot dog, wear odd clothing and pretend you’re in NoLA.


“Butterfly in the Typewriter” is the adaptation of the non-fiction biographical book about John Kennedy Toole.


Jonathan Swift's essay “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting” which includes this quote: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." 

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