I am ashamed to admit I have never read it (as I warned below, I am no intellectual), but I certainly will read it now, as it appears John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize winning A Confederacy of Dunces may have been prophetic, in a way. Note Max Lindenman’s exposition of the book’s anti-hero, Ignatius Reilly:
[Ignatius] is a figure few readers would care to identify with. Obese, a sloppy eater, and a fashion nightmare—the earring, though exceptional for him, does little harm to the effect of his usual getups—he’s also a hypochondriac obsessed with his pyloric valve [...]
But what makes Ignatius such a prophetic figure (and his creator, by extension, a prophet) is the rich virtual life he manages to lead. In his own mind and in his own words, Ignatius is a very formidable figure. He has worked out his own thought system—a kind of medievalism based on the philosophy of Boethius—which he expresses with considerable force and eloquence in a collection of Big Chief writing tablets. He engages with the general culture, feeding himself a steady diet of Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon-type movies, which tend to support his thesis of a decaying society. Through long, often spiteful letters, he carries on what amounts to a long distance relationship with Myrna Minkoff, a New Yorker he met while studying at Tulane.
No longer a regular churchgoer and inclined to mock his mother’s rosary beads as “religious hexerei,” Ignatius remains in some ways more Catholic than the pope. He criticizes St. Peter’s current successor—presumably John XXIII—as insufficiently authoritarian, and is quick to invoke the saints against his enemies. As he writes to one of his former professors:
Your total ignorance of that which you profess to teach merits the death penalty. I doubt whether you would know that St. Cassian of Imola was stabbed to death by his students with their styli. His death, a martyr’s honorable one, made him a patron saint of teachers.
Pray to him, you deluded fool, you “Anyone for tennis?” golf-playing, cocktail-quaffing, pseudo-pedant, for you do indeed need a heavenly patron. Although your days are numbered, you will not die as a martyr—for you further no holy cause—but as the total ass which you really are.
Ignatius signs off—pseudonymously, as on the internet—as “Zorro.”
If Ignatius Reilly is even more an everyman—and an EveryCatholic—now than he was back in the days of Camelot, it’s because whatever defined those times defines ours even more. Social change and political polarization? Check. The isolating effects of urban life? Check. Dissatisfaction with Church leadership, and indeed, with authority in general? Please.
Prophetic, indeed, in it’s way — right down to the sad obesity that has overtaken us as we sit around online.
Read the whole piece; it is an oxymoronic, thoughtfully-sad delight
I can’t help thinking, as I read the description of Ignatius Reilly, what a hoot he would be as a guest character on The Simpson, perhaps as the long-lost brother of Comic Book Guy, who would seem his match in both physicality and nerdy-but-eloquent unctuousness. One can almost read the above quote from Reilly and hear it in that character’s voice.
Except Comic Book Guy would end his missives (or more likely his combox remarks) with a succinct “Worst. Church. Ever.”
And then he’d hit “send,” registering his disgust throughout the world.