Life of Reilly

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Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I started reading John Kennedy Toole's hilarious novel A Confederacy of Dunces, set in New Orleans in the early '60s. (It's on the bookshelf at Double Shot Coffee.) The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an unforgettable character, a medievalist out of place in modernity who records his blasts against his times in crayon on Big Chief tablets, and as I read the novel I felt sure that if the book were set in our time, Reilly would be a blogger. (This is pretty close to how I'd imagine a Reilly blog would read.) I could imagine Reilly being evacuated from New Orleans and winding up in the planned refugee housing at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in southern Oklahoma and blogging about his encounters with this strange culture. It's even funnier to imagine Reilly, rad-trad Catholic that he is, taking refuge at Beal Heights Presbyterian Church in Lawton, and encountering its Truly Reformed blogging pastor, John Owen Butler. (His blog is called "OK Calvin" with good reason.)

Finally someone with some imagination (not to mention theology and geometry) has provided us with Ignatius J. Reilly's reaction to the disaster. Matt Evans of the Morning News has discovered a letter from Reilly to President Bush, proposing that he take over as head of FEMA:

Sir, I must reprove you now with sharpness!

You have allowed matters here to degenerate most abysmally in the watery wake of the Hurricane named Katrina. The levees are broken and our cities washed away. We have, as I once wrote in Working Boy, “gone from the vortex to the whirlpool of despair…New Orleans, a [once] comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive,” now stagnates in putrescence. The air is filled with the puling of women and children. Degenerates and drug addicts rule the day.

Worse, the statue my fellow citizens once erected on Canal Street in my honor now languishes begrimed and deliquesced from the dark floodwater onslaught!

He has some proposals for action which may be of interest. I notice he doesn't say anything about all those waterlogged buses. He had a bad experience on a bus once and would be only too glad to tell you about it. In excruciating detail.

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3 Comments

W. Author Profile Page said:

The publication of "A Confederacy of Dunces" is quite a story in its own right. Toole committed suicide a few years after he finished the manuscript. His mother showed it around, including to a college professor (from Tulane, I believe) who found the manuscript so hilarious that he made a concerted effort to get it published. Last I checked, it's sold more than a million copies, and I hear it's being made into a movie.

It is an amazing and tragic story. That professor was Walker Percy, a novelist and essayist in his own right. They've tried for years to turn it into a movie, but have run into one problem after another. The latest I heard had Will Farrell cast as Ignatius (which I can't quite imagine, although I've heard him do a voice that approaches how I imagine Ignatius' voice), Lily Tomlin as his mother, Mos Def as Jones, Drew Barrymore as Darlene, and Olympia Dukakis as Santa Battaglia.

manasclerk Author Profile Page said:

I am deeply touched to (perhaps) have introduced you to Reilly's own blog. Somehow I imagined him being evacuated to Yukon, though, foisted upon some unsuspecting OK Baptist family.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 6, 2005 12:40 AM.

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