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A Confederacy of Dunces (1)

“The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.”

Something about this reminds of Dickens, maybe the descriptive exuberance, the imagery and the contrasts.

The earflaps, “full of large ears …” Strange, but somehow apt.

The image of the hunting cap with the earflaps up as a turn signal, “indicating two directions at once.”

The corners of his mouth, full of disapproval (metaphysical) and potato chip crumbs (physical).

It continues. Ignatius is “studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress.”

Double binaries, also reminiscent of Dickens at his best:

The clothes of several were “new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency.”

1. new enough (a) / expensive enough (b)
2. taste (a) / decency (b)

“Two eyes were watching him, two sad eyes shining with hope and desire…
… the two sad and covetous eyes…”

1. hope (a) / desire (b) +
2. sad (a) / covetous (b) -

While the novel is hilarious, well plotted, etc., repeated readings uncover its author’s mastery of rhetoric.

Synecdoche. Jones:

“the sunglasses” blew smoke (meaning, the man wearing the sunglasses)

“the old man asked the cloud of smoke” (meaning, the man asked the other man who was smoking)

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, especially if it doesn’t have a cover (like the one I’m reading right now), but I think that you can make some judgments about a book on the basis of the first few pages, and especially the first paragraph.



April 2019



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