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on May 23, 2004
The person who said "great subject, poor execution" pretty much nailed it. I enjoyed finally learning in detail about the background of Toole and the circumstances under which the novel was written, but this is basically a dry assemblage of facts with no real sense of Toole as a person or an artist. The correspondence between Toole and Gottlieb also says nothing enlightening about why Simon and Schuster wouldn't publish Confederacy and the authors don't even attempt a hypothesis beyond "they didn't like the Myrna Minkoff character very much". My own feeling has always been that Toole was ahead of his time. His brand of satire was far too dark and biting for the 1960s, and I think if the book had been published then there would have been an extremely negative public reaction to it - which might have been even worse for Toole than not being published at all. Either way, given the struggles he was having with depression and alcoholism it's unlikely he would have survived long enough for his true audience to emerge at the end of the following decade.
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.
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on March 24, 2004
I really, really wanted to enjoy this book. However, the writing is about what you would expect from two women (who remarkably resemble Mrs. Levy) who took a writing course because they had nothing better to do. They decided to make the end-product of their course this biography.
I love New Orleans, I lived uptown, and "Confederacy" is one of my favorite books. Alas, this book does give good information (typically in the form of unadulterated correspondence from Mr. Toole) about John Kennedy Toole, but the execution is stunted.
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on March 4, 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. The man had so much more left in him. After reading both NEON BIBLE and CONFEDERACY, I was sure no one could take his place. The closest thing I've found is an author by the name of Jackson McCrae. His writing is a combination of all the things Toole loved. It has the dark sadness of NEON BIBLE and the hilarity of CONFEDERACY. And it amazes me that so few others have followed in the literary footsteps of Toole.
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on August 10, 2003
Probably the best the authors could do given the circumstances. Great character description (esp. Thelma). Very interesting Belushi anecdote.
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on October 24, 2002
Any fan of Confederacy of Dunces should naturally have an interest learning about the author, John Kennedy Toole. Misunderstood and over-protected throughout most of his life, Toole struggled with not only his writing, but as the authors would lead you to believe, also his sexuality. After reading this, one will notice many similarities and parallels between John Kennedy Toole and his famous character, Ignatius Reilly, from their social awkwardness to their dependence on their mothers.
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on April 3, 2002
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 probably why he killed himself. Many writers get rejected, they all don't kill themselves... so it was Nevils and Hardy's job to shed light on the many factors that led to his suicide, which I believe they did very well.
However it's not all dark and gloomy, reading about how insane his mother was quite funny at times, although I wouldn't want to spend an evening at one of her recitals or listen to her ramble on the phone(I have my own mother for that)
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on December 28, 2001
I finished Ignatius Rising very quickly, maybe because of my great interest in the book A Confederacy of Dunces. There is certainly a wealth of information here for the Dunces fan. I must say right off that Gottlieb ,the N Y editor, seemed to want the book to be perfect or maybe was just making excuses because something in the book offended him. I didn't feel he was really trying to help Toole, more like just stringing him along. The authors here play down that Gottlieb might have been offended with something in the book and therefore didn't give it it's due consideration. I still don't buy that, after all Gottlieb read the m.s. so he must have realized that Dunces was a masterpiece. I think editors having so much power over an artist's work can be a little intoxicating and blinding, at least this may have prooved true for the editor in question here. I don't really know of course and there are still unanswered questions in this regard upon completing this informative work. There are facts here I never knew, like there being an earlier version of Dunces with Ignatius being called something else. Towards the end of the book the tragic visitation of Toole's depression makes for tough reading. The authors deserve a lot of credit for digging out this much info on Dunces and Toole. I just can't say after reading this tragic story that I walk away from this book with an all together good feeling.
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on December 21, 2001
This book was a terrible disappointment. The authors are apparently barely literate. How the heck did they get a book contract? The scant information here about the mysterious and tragic Ken Toole was useful, but presented in such a way as to be almost unreadable. I want more -- about his life, about his work. I want more -- but not by these authors.
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on October 10, 2001
A boring life makes for a tedious bio. And the lack of an index is inexcusable.
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on September 19, 2001
A quick perusal of "Ignatius Rising" reveals why it has taken so long to produce a even the thinnest of biographies on the man behind "Confederacy of Dunces." With the exception of the story behind how the novel got published (which only occupies the book's last pages), there's nothing at all remarkable about Mr. Toole's sad, mundane life. The authors try valiantly to dig up research and credible eye witnesses to shed some light on the mysterious Mr. Toole, but they are not entirely successfully. How else can you explain why we are forced to read--in their entirety--so many of Mr. Toole's redundant letters home from the Army?
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.
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