“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” — Jonathan Swift, “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting
FIRST EDITION OF TOOLE’S PULITZER-PRIZE-WINNING COMIC MASTERPIECE ABOUT NEW ORLEANS, WHICH DOES FOR THAT CITY WHAT ULYSSES DID FOR DUBLIN (ANTHONY BURGESS) — THIS COPY SIGNED BY THE NOTED NEW ORLEANS AUTHOR WALKER PERCY, WHO ASSISTED IN THE PUBLICATION OF THE NOVEL AFTER THE AUTHOR’S DEATH.
On Canal Street in New Orleans stands a bronze statue of an overweight, vaguely disreputable figure wearing a hunting cap and rumpled clothes, visibly wincing at the sad lack of “theology and geometry” — as he puts it — in the modern world. That is Ignatius J. Reilly — “slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one — who is in violent revolt against the entire modern age” (Walker Percy). Reilly is the Falstaffian protagonist of John Kennedy Toole’s comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces.
“The comedy of [the work] in large part derives from the incongruity of its central character with the twentieth-century America he inhabits. Ignatius Reilly is physically gross, unstylish, and anti-social in a world which demands an other-directed concern for appearance and manners... To an advertisement for a ‘Clean, hard-working, dependable, quiet type,’ Ignatius responds, ‘Good God! What kind of monster is this that they want. I am afraid that I could never work for a concern with a worldview like that’” (Lloyd M. Daigrepoint, “Ignatius Reilly and the Confederacy of Dunces”).
“Since its eruption on the literary scene in 1980, [this work] has been hailed by many critics and readers as one of the funniest books ever written and a literary masterpiece. The verdict is hardly unanimous, however, as a sizable minority continues to denigrate the novel as a chaotic mess, politically incorrect, or insufficiently focused on moral certainties and political ideologies” (John Lowe, “The Carnival Voices of A Confederacy of Dunces).
The book itself has an unlikely and bittersweet history. Toole wrote it in 1963, but was unable after several years of attempts to persuade any publishers to take an interest in it. In despair, he killed himself in 1969, and his mother, finding the manuscript after his death, took on the task of getting the work published. Eventually, she wandered into the office of Walker Percy at Loyola University (who has signed the copy offered here) with a “badly smeared, scarcely readable carbon” of the manuscript. Percy started to read it, hoping to be able to tell the mother after the first few pages that it was unpublishable. As he recounts the story in the foreword to the novel, he read “[f]irst with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.” He persuaded Louisiana State University Press to take the book on, and it was finally published in 1980 with a first printing of only 2500 copies. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1981. (Interestingly, in the same year, Jonathan Yardley, who had reviewed the book for the Washington Star, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism for his book reviews.) It has since sold well over a million copies.
First issue jacket with Walker Percy blurb (only) on rear panel. Signed by Walker Percy in ink on title page. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. Octavo, original cloth, original dust jacket. Book fine, dust jacket fine.
A FINE, BEAUTIFUL COPY - RARE SIGNED BY PERCY AND IN SUCH OUTSTANDING CONDITION.
Price: $7,000 .