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Ignatius Rising: The Life of John Kennedy Toole

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The phenomenal success of John Kennedy Toole's comic masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces, is now legendary, a story that has long beckoned a deeper exploration into the life, imagination, and demise of the writer responsible for one of American literature's most memorable characters - Ignatius J. Reilly. In Ignatius Rising, Rene Pol Nevils and Deborah George Hardy present the first biography of Toole, drawing upon scores of interviews with contemporaries of the writer and acquaintances of his influencing mother,...
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Overview

The phenomenal success of John Kennedy Toole's comic masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces, is now legendary, a story that has long beckoned a deeper exploration into the life, imagination, and demise of the writer responsible for one of American literature's most memorable characters - Ignatius J. Reilly. In Ignatius Rising, Rene Pol Nevils and Deborah George Hardy present the first biography of Toole, drawing upon scores of interviews with contemporaries of the writer and acquaintances of his influencing mother, Thelma, as well as unpublished letters, documents, and photographs. Frank yet sympathetic, Ignatius Rising describes a life that is dark, tragic, bizarre, and amazing - but luminous with the gift of laughter, a life not unlike those of Toole's beloved characters, now loved the world over.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An oddly entertaining biography of a tormented writer and his unlikely legacy. John Kennedy Toole's story has become the stuff of publishing legend: Boy wonder writes a dense, picaresque novel called A Confederacy of Dunces (a "rambling story about an obese, flatulent man"); no one wants to publish same; despondent boy wonder commits suicide; boy wonder's mother recruits famous writer to find a publisher for the manuscript; the novel is published and becomes a bestseller. As Nevils and Hardy—former writing students of NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu at Louisiana State University—demonstrate, the truth of the story is considerably more complex. Born in 1936, Toole grew up to be a complex, self-hating man—but one whose talents were clearly appreciated. Far from being shunned as a provincial nobody by the powers that be in New York publishing, as the Toole myth would have it, the author of Confederacy was taken seriously at many houses (including Simon & Schuster, whose chief editor Robert Gottlieb devoted considerable time to suggesting ways in which the ungainly novel could be trimmed and focused). Too close to the work at that point, Toole was psychically unprepared to undertake revisions. His suicide, however, was not the response to rejection that his mother claimed it to have been; it was instead an escape from a long and gruesome slide into madness. A minor author by any measure, Toole would not merit a book-length study were it not for his whirlwind of a mother, who pressed the manuscript on novelist Walker Percy and hounded him until he arranged for its publication. Thelma Ducoing Toole emerges as a self-absorbed harridan of the first order in this account,conniving and utterly awful, whom everyone connected with Toole's posthumous good fortune took pains to avoid—but who made that good fortune possible through her unwavering belief in her son's brilliance. Unpleasant and demanding, she—and not her unlucky son—is the real hero of this engagingly told footnote to American literary history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807126806
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

René Pol Nevils lives in Baton Rouge with her husband, Rick.

Deborah George Hardy is a member of the Paris Poetry Workshops and founding director of Littlestarfriends.com. She lives in Pasadena, California.

LSU Press

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2004

    Simply Fascinating

    A great book that helps you to understand the genius behind Confederacy of Dunces.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2001

    Theology and Geometry Are Perfectly Aligned in 'Ignatius Rising'

    You will need to read John Kennedy Toole's 'Confederacy of Dunces' to understand the headline, but this is a brilliant biography of a complex writer who, based only on a single, but long, major work, posthumously claimed a place very high on the list of the funniest writers in history. The authors of 'Ignatius Rising' have, through dogged research, uncovered amazingly satisfying answers to the multitude of questions about Toole and his book occurring to me over the years, and have presented them in a page-turning detective story way. Unless your sense of humor, in one instance, or your curiosity, in the other, are permanently in check, you will love both of these books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2001

    A Really Good Read!

    Kept my interest from beginning to end, truth is indeed stranger than fiction!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2001

    this is a biography? wow, if it was fiction you wouldn't believe it!

    john kennedy toole is one of my favorite authors. he may well be my favorite author or all time. his book Confederacy of Dunces (buy that book!) is an amazing novel. Toole was a genius of a writer. This biography follows Toole from his birth to his suicide in Mississippi. It shows how Toole became depressed and psychotic over the fact that he couldn't get his book published by any major publisher. Toole had a masters degree from Columbia University and a Bachelors from Tulane. He had been in the Army for two years as an English teacher. THe book also highlights Toole's mother. It makes her out to be the real character. She was crazy, but loved her son so much she kept sending out the manuscript to publishers. Toole was her 'baby.' This book would be perfect but i feel it just bounces the surface of the life of JK Toole. The authors seem to be trying to link everything to Confederacy. If you are familiar with C.O.D. you will appreciate this book. i recommend it. i wish ihad been able to give it 3 1/2 stars, but oh well.

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