Steve recommended this book to me, and I probably would not have made it past the first chapter had I not known that he would take my abandonment as justification to ignore my recommendation of Cryptonomicon. Every single character in this book is contemptible, pitiful, disgusting, despicable, or all of the above. The passages describing Ignatius made me physically ill. Chapters that were supposed to make the reader laugh provoked only despair and revulsion. The entire book is an immense joke at the expense of a mentally ill person and his intellectually deficient neighbors.
But it is so well written, I could not put it aside. The dialogue is perfectly imperfect in its dialect. The characters' mad obsessions are realized with acute perception. The setting evokes the past without being dated. This is one of the best books I have ever hated reading. I may even read it again.