First things first. If you haven’t read this book, do so immediately: your world will never be the same again. It is without doubt one of the funniest, most original and cleverest novels ever written, and its strange path to publication only renders it more fascinating. In a nutshell, A Confederacy of Dunces is the story of Ignatius J Reilly: slob, misunderstood genius, Mummy’s boy, glutton, fantasist. His dead-end life in New Orleans with his redoubtable mother and on-off girlfriend Myrna Minkoff is more or less without incident, but Ignatius manages to turn every setback, disappointment and non-event into a berserk epic of which he is always the hero. His attempts to earn money (eg as a hot-dog salesman) are all doomed to failure (he eats all the hot dogs), his relations with his employers are an inspiration to us all, and his struggles with his digestion are nothing less than heroic. Toole committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31; it was only his mother’s determination that brought the book to publication.