In the 1960s John Kennedy Toole wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, which details the uproarious misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an overweight genius misfit. Though he has visions of grandeur, Ignatius winds up selling wienies for Paradise Vendors, Inc. the fictional equivalent of Lucky Dogs, in New Orleans' famed French Quarter. Lest you think that the outlandish world of Ignatius was only a figment of Toole's vivid imagination, in Managing Ignatius Jerry E. Strahan relates his ...
In the 1960s John Kennedy Toole wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, which details the uproarious misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an overweight genius misfit. Though he has visions of grandeur, Ignatius winds up selling wienies for Paradise Vendors, Inc. the fictional equivalent of Lucky Dogs, in New Orleans' famed French Quarter. Lest you think that the outlandish world of Ignatius was only a figment of Toole's vivid imagination, in Managing Ignatius Jerry E. Strahan relates his amusing - and bemusing - experiences working for more than two decades with the audacious characters who compose the actual stable of Lucky Dog vendors. Strahan weaves delectable vignettes of the Vieux Carre demimonde in whose midst he makes a living - a group blending panhandlers, prostitutes, pimps, con artists, schizophrenics, drifters, jazz musicians, strippers, bikers, and transvestites. Over the years they've all worked for Lucky Dogs, truly an equal opportunity employer. They often drink too much, party too long, and work too little. In managing these eccentrics, Strahan serves variously as peacemaker, negotiator, marriage counselor, detective, father figure, and banker. Sometimes all in the same day. He tells all their stories with a gently ironic realism, revealing his peculiar managerial challenges with keen appreciation for the human condition. Like Ignatius, he understands how fickle Fortuna can be.
For more than 20 years, Strahan managed the Lucky Dog company, whose vendors sell wienies out of the seven-foot-long hot dog-shaped carts that can be found on almost any street corner in New Orleans's French Quarter. He gave his book its present title because Ignatius J. Reilly, the outsized hero of John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, is a composite of actual Lucky Dog vendors, though Strahan confesses he thought of calling it A Hundred and One People I Wish I Had Never Met. Apparently, altar boys don't peddle pups in the Quarter, and the author found himself riding herd on a crew mainly of transients too antsy to do any other kind of work; some stayed for years, but most took off after a few weeks, often with the company's share of the proceeds. "Deep down inside they were basically kind, loyal, and caring people," writes Strahan, "but these qualities rarely surfaced." A historian who dropped out of the Tulane doctoral program for a temporary job that became a permanent one, Strahan kept his sanity by flexing a comic sense that also keeps the reader laughing. And drooling, too, because only a diehard frankophobe will be able to read Managing Ignatius without intermittent longings for a Lucky Dog in a steamed bun topped with chili, cheese and onions; the product stays the same, even if the vendors don't. 24 halftones. Mar.
The "Ignatius" in the title alludes to Ignatius J. Reilly, the colorful hero of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces 1980, who worked briefly for Paradise Vendors, Inc., the fictional counterpart of Lucky Dogs. Armed with a master's degree in history, Strahan left academia to peddle weenies in New Orleans and to manage an assortment of misfits rivaled only by Henry Miller's motley crew at the Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company Tropic of Capricorn. Strahan recounts the antics of the petty criminals, drunks, and madmen he supervised for over 25 years as he traces the rise of Lucky Dogs from a single Orange Julius store on Bourbon Street to an international franchise of successful hot dog stands. Frank about his vendors' moral failings, Strahan nevertheless treats them with sympathy and affection. Those with an appetite for hot dogs and the French Quarter will relish this delicious read.William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
A real-life Confederacy of Dunces records the "dysfunctional corporate family" history of a New Orleans institution, Lucky Dogs, Inc. The company's hotdog-shaped vending carts are a French Quarter fixture; its motley crew of transient wienie vendors were the apparent inspiration for John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prizewinning farce. Strahan, a Lucky Dog vendor and manager intermittently since 1968, is the straight man among the clowns. He's a self-described "conservative redneck" whose disapproval of gay lifestyles and unenviable position of authority over a constantly changing and largely unmanageable army of Ignatius J. Reillys lends his account of Big Easy street life (especially portions dealing with the quarter's randy days during the '60s and '70s) an air of censoriousness. The Lucky Dogs crewrestless drifters, Vietnam vets, drunks, small-time swindlers, transvestites, carnies, and the occasional college kidsuffer misadventures more pathetic than madcap. Strahan mediates their disputes with loan sharks, pimps, irate landlords, and jealous lovers with wearied aplomb, and his accounts of these confrontations are largely tributes to his own judiciousness and wisdom. He's obviously a man of character (more than once he rehires employees who previously skipped town with the day's receipts) and a heads-up businessman: When a four-star restaurant banishes a cart for stealing too many customers, Strahan asks for the request in writing, then threatens to run it as an ad in the local paper. He guides the company's expansion into New Orleans's casinos and overseas, eventually landing a spot at that haven of American street cuisine, Euro-Disney. Strahan's prose, over-salted with adverbs,bromides, and sweeping generalizations, is well suited to dishing an entrepreneurial success story. But as an interpretive, first-person history of New Orleans's funky street life, Managing Ignatius can't cut the mustard. (b&w photos)