To us, sainthood is achieved when a life is lived differently. We’re drawn to the saint and know we’re learning something, but we’re never sure exactly what it is. Our saints inspire. They make us laugh and think at the same time. None of our saints would imagine being collected in a book of saints.
Here is our second. The first was Richard Brautigan.
Each gets the honor of having me do a 2 minute sketch of them on an envelope (this time a Comcast bill, since I couldn’t find an envelope).
Who do you think should enter the book of saints?
I encountered Confederacy of Dunces during the time in my life when I carried around favorite novels in my back pocket like little bibles. I wanted the world to know I read and that I had taste, but I didn’t want it to be so obvious that I carried a book in my hand. I guess I was so pretentiously unpretentious that I wanted people to discover my secrets. It was a time of literary first loves. Kerouac, Vonnegut, Brautigan, Salinger, Camus, Ring Lardner, all took turns back there in my pocket. I’d whip them out when giving plasma or sitting on a bench. The textual world within the covers seemed much more real and meaningful to me than the world I was supposed to be in.
Confederacy didn’t fit in my pocket–literally or figuratively. It was funny, sad, inspiring, depressing. It contained voices I had never heard. I resolved to get to New Orleans to hear them myself. I wanted to learn about medieval philosophy. I wanted to eat a Lucky Dog. Most importantly, it introduced me to Ignatius J. Reilly, a protagonist that had no right being one. He was gaseous, pompous, disrespectful, self-absorbed, lazy, often disgusting. His appearance–giant, smelly, unkempt–was the opposite of what a hero should be. No one in their right mind would write a book focused on this character and told primarily through this character’s point of view. Thank god that John Kennedy Toole did.
Ignatius is a beautiful loser, an uglY cOUsin, a character that is a product of his region and an anathema to it. He proudly doesn’t fit.
I think back to his words often–usually in the voice of my friend Elrod, who was much better at memorizing and repeating quotes than I. I needn’t write anymore to support his sainthood. His own words work better. Here are a few:
- A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss.
- Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking.
- This liberal doxy must be impaled on the member of a particularly large stallion!
- Jail was preferable. There they only limited you physically. In a mental ward they tampered with your soul and worldview and mind.
- The human desire for food and sex is relatively equal. If there are armed rapes, why should there not be armed hot dog thefts?
- Employers sense in me a denial of their values. . . they fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century which I loathe.
- I dust a bit. In addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.
- Optimism nauseates me. It is perverse. Since man’s fall, his proper position in the universe has been one of misery.
- Canned food is a perversion. . . I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul.
- The only excursion of my life outside of New Orleans took me through the vortex to the whirlpool of despair: Baton Rouge. . .
- New Orleans is, on the other hand, a comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive.
- With the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.
- I avoid that bleak first hour of the working day during which my still sluggish senses and body make every chore a penance. I find that in arriving later, the work which I do perform is of a much higher quality.
- The human body, when confined, produces certain odors which we tend to forget in this age of deodorants and other perversions. Actually, I find the atmosphere of this room rather comforting.
- Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.
- Every asylum in this nation is filled with poor souls who simply cannot stand lanolin, cellophane, plastic, television, and subdivisions.
If you haven’t, or haven’t in a while, consider adding meaning to the waning months of summer by reading Confederacy of Dunces. If you have cargo pants, it will fit in your pocket. If not, carry it proudly. Stand outside your local post office reading from it aloud. Eat a giant gray hotdog in the middle of the night and drip mustard on its pages.
Live in peace.