Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I remember reading Confederacy of Dunces not long after it was published. I remember the story of how the authors mother talked Percy Walker into reading it which led to Tulane Press publishing it. Dunces won a Pulitzer Prize. This all happened years after John Kennedy Toole, the author, had committed suicide after being rejected by publishers.
The novel was an instant classic and it was passed around among my friends. This was 1980-81. I think about Confederacy of Dunces and Ignatius J. Riley, the main charter in the story, when I'm in NOLA and I come come across a Lucky Dog Vendor. And I laugh out loud. There are lot's of laugh out loud parts of this book. It is such a well written book. It is full of very unique characters. And the dialect of each is perfect. From the well educated , pompous tones of Ignatius to the hip, jive, soul brother talk of Jones the floor sweeper at the local bar. There's the cop, and the mother and her friend and the stripper and the lady bar owner and many others. They each have a very distinct way of talking and it came through in the book. And it is a big part of what makes this such a good read.
So my moms calls and tells me she read that Confederacy of Dunces was being offer as live stage production put on by The Theatrical Outfit. The Theatrical Outfit is in downtown Atlanta, on Luckie St. We caught one of the last shows and enjoyed very much. If you have read the book you would know why I worried if they could pull it off. To start with the characters in the book are so distinct I thought no way they could do them justice. Well they did. All except the jive talking Jones, the "flo sweeper". It was still a great show.
The actors would sometimes bring the stage set with them as they came on stage for their scene. While on the other side the stage was being set for the next scene. It was a brillant way to handle scene changes. The play was in two acts. The background, a New Orleans cityscape with the D. H. Holmes clock in the center, never changed. Like I said some of the set pieces were carried or pushed on stage by the actors in a particular scene. When that scene was finished actors came from another part of the stage with other set pieces, put them in place and started acting. The set pieces were simple. Like a small kitchen table with 2 chairs and maybe a phone, a bottle of booze and and a candle on the table. Just enough to get the setting across. Then the actors grabbed the chairs and pushed the table away when they were done. I thought it was a great way to present a play.
You should go to this link and read a review of the book. It will give you an idea of what Ignatius was like. http://www.spikemagazine.com/1104johnkennedytoole.php
I read the next day in the paper that there is a effort to get the play to NYC. Hope that happens.