Two books that I consider to be among the best are: A Confederacy of Dunces and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two more books that follow the life of Lisbeth Salander followed the latter. A Confederacy of Dunces stands alone. There will be no more books by Stieg Larsson, who wrote the Salander books, nor from John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Dunces book.
Both books met with immediate acclaim when they were published posthumously. They are, in fact, fabulous stories brilliantly told. Anyone who enjoys reading strong, earthy, beautifully written books must read these four – the three by Larsson and one by Toole.
Films were made of the Larsson trilogy, I’ve not heard of a worthy one for Toole’s book. The American versions of the Salander story, to me, are not worth the time of day. The Swedish versions, with subtitles, are brilliant. The casting, the acting, the script, every scrap of them is great.
Ignatius Jacques Reilly is the morbidly obese and endlessly pompous star of A Confederacy of Dunces. He is unique in literature, and is purely wonderful. The lead character in the Larsson books and films is Lisbeth Slander, the most fascinating and exciting hero you’ll ever read.
You might well wonder where the plum trees come into this story. I used to own a hobby farm in the mountains where I kept horses and sometimes pigs and cows. There’s an ancient apple orchard behind the house. It’s very picturesque, with the old, gnarled trunks and untrimmed limbs.
At far corners of the orchard, diagonal from each other were two, old, sterile plum trees. For years, while the apple trees were bursting with huge, antique apples, the plum trees appeared to be little more than four inch wide sticks in the ground.
Suddenly, one spring, the plum trees came to life. To super life, I want to say. Both trees burst forth with volumes of perfect, beautiful, Damson plums. Bushels of them. Sweet, firm Damson plums from trees that we thought were long dead. They produced a vast amount of wonderful nourishment, and then they died dead. Forever.
Similarly, both Stieg Larsson and John Kennedy Toole burst forth with brilliant books. They created stories and characters unparalleled in modern literature. They nourished readers’ minds with intrigue and excitement. Then they died.
Stieg Larsson died suddenly, of a heart attack at fifty. John Kennedy Toole took his own life at forty-four. I like to think that, like the plum trees, the effort to produce such a fine result was more than life could sustain. They gave their all, the plum trees and the authors. We have the authors’ books, and they are as much a blessing as were the plums.
Foote on the left, Larsson on the right.