“May I select my own?” Ignatius asked, peering down over the top of the pot. In the boiling water the frankfurters swished and lashed like artificially colored and magnified paramecia. Ignatius filled his lungs with the pungent, sour aroma. “I shall pretend that I am in a smart restaurant and that this is the lobster pond.”
– A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Few books capture real New Orleans and its quirks like the Pulitzer Prize-winning, A Confederacy of Dunces. Set in the early 1960s, the satirical novel covers the misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an overeducated bombast who can’t seem to move out of his childhood bedroom, and who writes manifestos and suffers from chronic flatulence.
I first read this book when I was considering moving to Louisiana shortly after college. At the time, I was living in Miami, and had been dating a guy who lived in Baton Rouge. Once on a visit, I found the novel on his bookshelf and gave it a whirl. It was deliciously insane, and even though I didn’t fully get the cultural references, I could not put it down.
Fast forward to this year, 2015 — the 35th anniversary of the book’s publication by the LSU Press. I had indeed moved to Baton Rouge way back when, and while that particular relationship didn’t last, I stayed. Louisiana became my home. I re-read the book this spring, and it was full-circle fun. I had a completely new appreciation for “jambalaya with shrimps” and Lucky Dogs.
One of the reasons I read it again this year was because my friend and fellow LSU Press author, Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, was finishing her A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook (LSU Press).
I couldn’t wait to see what she came up with.
(Update: Cindy was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition on Dec 4. Check out the interview here.)