People either love or hate this book, which is not such a bad thing for an author because it’s not about how many like it, it’s about having a few who think it’s the best thing ever.
If only a small percentage of the six billion of the people on the planet absolutely love your book, that’s good enough. They’ll make sure word gets around.
I don’t either love or hate Confederacy. I thought it was okay. However, I am biased. I do hate comic novels – Mario Vargas Llosa, Evelyn Waugh, for me their books are just the letters of the alphabet in a particular order. Not only do I not like them, I can’t understand how anyone can. Generally I find the characterisation weak, the story unbelievable, and most of all it just doesn’t make me laugh.
I know that this is my fault, I’m the one lacking. Much Evelyn Waugh cares. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Confederacy is certainly a comic novel, so it must be pretty good if I can get through it without flushing it down the toilet.
My issue is that the best humour is found in the most of serious of situations.
You don’t get that in comic novels. What you get is deliberately ridiculous or bizarre set-ups. Here it is Ignatius ruining the business in the first job he has, in Levy Pants; and later dressed in a pirate suit and eating the hotdogs he is supposed to be selling. Sorry, but I’m just not laughing.
Some of the minor characters are brilliantly drawn: Dorian Greene and Timmy, two gay characters, and their confrontation with three lesbians would probably be exorcised from any modern novel if the author had not committed suicide before it was published.
But there’s more to Confederacy than that. Without getting too poncey about it, there’s an argument that it is the Great American Novel, or at least one of them. That’s because it’s a snapshot of a particular type of life, which I haven’t seen portrayed in any other book.
I much prefer, to pick a book off the shelf, The Great Gatsby, but Confederacy at least shares with it that uniqueness: a portrait not of all of America, but nevertheless a very one of part of it.
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