Has there been a movie made of it?
There have been several attempts to make this book into a movie, but the rumor around hollywood is the lead is cursed. John Belushi, Chris Farley, and John Candy were all men who attempted for the lead in a movie version of this novel and all died suddenly. Another attempt at a movie version was made in 2004, casting Will Ferrell and Lily Tomlin as the leads, but production was halted for an undisclosed reason.
Who are the main characters?
Whoa nelly, there are quite a few:
Ignatious Jacques Reilly – a severely obese man who is self-centered but highly intelligent. He lives with his mother and is forced to look for a job for the first time in his 30’s.
Irene Reilly – Ignatious’ mother, who is in her 70’s. Her entire life is centered around her son, who continually causes her grief. She is a recovering alcoholic.
Myrna “the Minx” Minkoff – the closest thing Ignatious has ever had to a girlfriend, a Jewish New Yorker he met in college. She is obsessed with freeing the world from its sexual restrictions.
Officer Mancuso – a down and out police officer who is being tortured by his commander and is forced to wear ridiculous costumes in an attempt to bring in “suspicious characters.”
Burma Jones – an African American man who is blackmailed into working at a strip joint in the French quarter. He is determined to sabotage anything and everything there in a quest for better wages.
Lana Lee – the owner of the aforementioned strip club who runs suspicious business on the side.
Miss Trixie – an older-than-air worker at Ignatious’ first job, Levy Pants. She is very senile and all she wants is to be retired and given a long-promised Christmas ham. Mr. Levy – the owner of Levy Pants. He hates Levy Pants and his wife, who practically idolizes his father and the company.
Dorian Greene – a flamboyantly open homosexual who lives in the French Quarter and organizes great parties for the gay community.
What’s it about?
The book centers around Ignatious Reilly’s attempts to get a job and keep it in 1960’s New Orleans. He and his mother were in a car accident and now owe the city $1,000 in fines. Since his mother is too old to work, Ignatious is forced to give up some of his slothful habits (watching tv, masturbating, writing social commentary, and drinking Dr. Nut) and go out and find a job. Ignatious is offended by almost everyone he meets, but tries to use every occasion to bring himself to greatness and to outdo Myrna Minx’s contrasting attempts at political and societal greatness.
Throughout the entire novel, they correspond with each other trying to impress and surpass each other in intelligence and social discourse. This book is so intricate and random that I even had trouble summarizing the plot when I could include spoilers, so summing it up now is even more of a challenge.
Suffice it to say, Ignatious complicates almost everything he becomes involved in. The majority of the novel tells of his attempts to achieve fame and his spectacular flops while trying. It also details the adventures of Officer Mancuso as he is punished for endeavoring to arrest Ignatious and his mother at the beginning of the story, and the tale of Mr. Levy of Levy Pants as he is tortured by his wife’s incessant nagging and the immense feeling of failure when it comes to his factory. Included are small insights into the lives of Irene Reilly, Burma Jones – a doorman/cleaningman at a strip joint, one of Ignatious’ former professors, and George – a highschool runner for Lana Lee’s side business.
Why is this book a classic?
This book is a cult classic. It is supposed to be one of the most accurate representations of the 1960’s French Quarter and the vibrancy of the characters who inhabited it during that time. I doubt it will ever be a classic in the most popular sense of the word.
Why should I read this book?
I don’t think I would recommend this book to many people I know. Maybe a few, such as Japanese Tyler and Australian Lace and Scott the Raven would find it humorous. It’s bizarreness keeps the majority of those who I interact with off the “to be recommended to” list, as well as the profanity and sometimes offensive actions of the characters. But don’t take my word for it. *salutes in Levar Burton fashion*
Has it won any awards?
It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 – which means a lot of people I don’t know think it’s very good.
“When Fortuna spins you downward, go out to a movie and get more out of life. Ignatious was about to say this to himself; then he remembered that he went to the movies almost every night, no matter which way Fortuna was spinning.” – p65
There is a bronze statue of Ignatious Reilly in the city of New Orleans at the spot where we are first introduced to him in the book – on Iberville Street at the former location of D.H. Holmes.
I went into this book expecting it to be hilarious. All through the book I kept thinking “when does this get funny?” Maybe it’s just my sense of humor is undeveloped. Or vibrating on a very different level than most people – which wouldn’t be at all surprising. I couldn’t decide whether Ignatious was funny or offensive and obviously, most view him as funny. I just found him annoying with humor only appearing when his antics became so unbelievable I was forced to laugh just to relieve inner tension. In fact, I found only a few of the characters in the entire book amusing. Dorian Greene- the gay guy so gay he reminded me of Jack off “Will and Grace,” Miss Trixie – if I’m ever senile I want to be like her, Jones – his actions remind me of myself in some of my poorer work conditions (shhh, don’t tell), and Mr. Levy – poor guy. Of course, the title gives some idea as to why some people think this book is funny with its inclusion of the word “dunces.” Everyone in this novel is the epitome of stupid; from Myrna the Minx and her sexual idealogy to Officer Mancuso’s forced undercover disguises. The stereotypes are pushed to their extremes – which is probably why it’s considered so funny. They’re laughing at the people. Maybe I just prefer to either laugh with people, or circumstances which are humorous. And by the last 100 pages I was treated to funny circumstances, so I admit I did laugh out loud once or twice.