Ignatuis Rising Hardcover – Jun 27 2002
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From Library Journal
By now, the tale of Toole's sprawling comic novel of New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces, lives on as a modern literary legend. A young novelist writes what he thinks is his masterpiece, is rejected by a famous New York publisher, and commits suicide only to be published posthumously and win the Pulitzer. But in this almost hagiographic account, first-time authors Nevils and Hardy reveal a story that is not quite so simple. Raised in New Orleans by a mostly distant and later mentally disturbed father and a clinging mother, Toole developed the love of reading early. When he finished Confederacy, he sent it to Simon and Schuster, where the famous Robert Gottlieb championed the manuscript and encouraged Toole to make some changes so that the book would be more publishable. Toole refused, asked for the manuscript back, and eventually descended into depression and paranoia, blaming Gottlieb for the novel's failure. After his death, his mother urged Walker Percy to publish Confederacy. The rest is history. Here, mother and son seem to have stepped right out of the Southern Gothic of a Tennessee Williams play, but this is a sad tale of one family's descent into despair and lonely ascent into posthumous fame. Recommended for most collections, especially where Confederacy is popular. Henry Carrigan, Lancaster, PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Note to the guy who thinks Thelma was the "ghostwriter" of Confederacy because her letter-writing style is so much like Ignatius Reilly's - you're overlooking the obvious. Thelma wrote letters to her son the entire time he was in Puerto Rico working on the first draft of the novel. Where do you think he got it from? Thelma may have acted as a sort of twisted Muse to Toole, but I highly doubt she was capable of conceiving of such a masterpiece of comic writing, much less committing it to paper. I suppose we should be grateful towards her for finally getting it into print, even if she was motivated by her own ego as much as anything else.
The correspondence between Gottlieb and Toole, however, is worth the price of the book, and that's why I recommend it to friends. Mr. Gottlieb has the distinction of being the only person in publishing who was in a position to evaluate Mr. Toole's manuscript based on its merits. His sensitive yet honest appraisal of the book is, in my humble opinion, right on. "Dunces," in its published form, is a funny but highly flawed novel, certainly not worthy of the lavish praise and prizes that were bestowed upon it by those intrigued by the book's tragic circumstances.
I trust that even if other readers don't agree with Mr. Gottlieb, they'll at least see him in the light of truth rather than as the cariacture created by Mr. Toole's demented mother.
The authors are to be congratulated for doing their best with very little material. I finished the book with a better understanding New Orleans society. Alas, I wish I also had a better understanding of Mr. Toole.
"Taking the pigtail in one of his paws, he pressed it warmly to his wet moustache."
Between those sentences lies "A Confederacy of Dunces," the masterpiece of John Kennedy Toole, a mystery of which for me has always been how any mere human could have come up with that set of fabulous characters, that amazingly original dialogue, those brilliantly off-beat and hysterically funny situations.
It's pretty clear now, with Nevils and Hardy's terrific biography of John Kennedy Toole, "Ignatius Rising," that we'll have to settle for as much "how" as they've been able to come up with, for this book is a masterwork of plumbing. While there is in the biography lots and lots about all other aspects of his interesting life, the genesis of his writing gift (I agree with Dan Acker below) is securely hidden. But I'm not sure we should want to know how Toole was able to materialize, for instance, combinations such as the following:
"Envy would gnaw at Myrna's musky vitals." Or "Ignatius emitted a little Paradise gas."
Or, on a banner, "Crusade for Moorish Dignity."
To choose just one of the many things "Ignatius Rising" IS able to uniquely provide regarding Toole and his life, Nevils and Hardy's discussion of the Simon and Schuster episodes, as particular and unusual as they were, has provided clues, at least, as to how getting a book published works. I had no idea that any publisher, let alone one of Robert Gottlieb's stature, even then, would take the time he did to encourage a new writer not yet signed to a contract.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I really, really wanted to enjoy this book. However, the writing is about what you would expect from two women (who remarkably resemble Mrs. Read morePublished on March 24 2004
I've heard it said, "How said that we are cheated out of what Toole 'might' have written had he not taken his own life." I, too was depressed by this thought. Read morePublished on March 4 2004
Probably the best the authors could do given the circumstances. Great character description (esp. Thelma). Very interesting Belushi anecdote.Published on Aug. 10 2003 by K. McNamara
Any fan of Confederacy of Dunces should naturally have an interest learning about the author, John Kennedy Toole. Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2002 by Chris Frost
This is a mostly sad tale about a very talented writer. It really shows the dominace his mother had over him and how conflicted he was about who he was, which in the end was... Read morePublished on April 3 2002 by M. Pickering
This book was a terrible disappointment. The authors are apparently barely literate. How the heck did they get a book contract? Read morePublished on Dec 21 2001 by Roy Sherwood
A boring life makes for a tedious bio. And the lack of an index is inexcusable.Published on Oct. 10 2001
Ever since I read "A Confederacy of Dunces" and heard the legend about how it got published, I have been interested in the character of its author. Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2001 by debra crosby
I've waited a long time to learn more about the enigmatic and very talented John Kennedy Toole who wrote my favorite humorous novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2001 by Leona Lee