Thomas R. Smith of River Falls, Wis., writes:

To get through this last ugly stretch of winter, I pulled out my old copy of John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," and again succumbed to gales of laughter at the outrageous antics of its inimitable and contradictory antihero, Ignatius J. Reilly, quixotic rebel against all things modern.

While a sadness shadows the novel's manic farce — perhaps the tragedy of its 32-year-old author's suicide — this masterpiece rewards the reader who has traversed its comic inferno with one of the most rhapsodic endings in American fiction. As the song says, you must believe in spring.

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