A floppy hunting cap, a sweat-stained scarf and a woolen jacket as red as a bulging pimple. You’d think only Ignatius J. Reilly, the delusional hero of A Confederacy of Dunces, could think such an outfit reasonable in the sultry streets of New Orleans. Yet Reilly, an outrageous eccentric who seems without equal, is just another oddball in the birthplace of jazz where the polyphony of personalities blends in chaotic harmony.
Walking around New Orleans is like entering a kaleidoscope of history. One moment you’ll be admiring the elegant symmetry of a French townhouse across the street from a stately neoclassical home, only to turn the corner and see an explosion of colorful shotgun houses. John Kennedy Toole’s novel is a reflection of this diverse and ever-changing city. And now, from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, you can experience the city like Toole and his curmudgeonly protagonist.
“An Ignatian Journey” is a self-guided tour of New Orleans on your mobile device in either audio form or as an interactive story map. Navigate the various locales of the novel as well as important sites in the author’s life. There are two main tour lengths: a short route of 1.62 miles and a long route of 3.43 miles. There is an additional streetcar route, but you’ll have to pay your own ticket. Provided on the tour is the insightful commentary of LSU scholar Cynthia Nobles, author of The Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook, with narration done by local poet and satirist Chris Champagne. The tour can be found by simply going to this website and choosing which tour option you’d like.
On your Ignatian Journey you’ll visit such places as the former D.H Holmes department store, now the stylish Hyatt French Quarter Hotel. Once the place to shop for the chic and well-to-do, it is also where Ignatius was nearly arrested by Officer Mancuso for the crime of being, well, unsightly. Later you can stop for a cup of coffee at the luxurious Palace Café, once the site of Werlein’s Music Store. This used to be a hub of the music world in New Orleans, where legends like Fats Domino bought his two Steinway pianos and Ignatius his lute strings. Of course, you’ll stop by the French Quarter and the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral Basilica. If all this walking has made you hungry, you can stop by a Lucky Dog hotdog stand, a staple of the city since 1947 where Ignatius briefly worked. That is if you can describe eating all the merchandise as work.
Using modern technology, you can now experience New Orleans and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel like never before. Up and down Fortuna’s wheel, New Orleans and her fictional medievalist have been through a lot. Every cobblestone street tells a story. Every neighborhood is filled with cranks, weirdos, dreamers, scoundrels and heroes of all shapes and forms. As anyone who’s ever been to this city, you wouldn’t want it any other way.