In Memory of John Kennedy Toole: A Real Life Confederacy of Dunces

Last summer I asked a friend of mine to recommend a brilliant , comical book that I could take to vacation with me, and she said I should read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

Ignatius Reilly

The book is about a 30 year old college educated, out of work man named Ignatius Reilly who lives with his mother. He cannot keep a job and he believes that his consecutive failures in life are the work of what he refers to as fortuna’s wheel , that stops him from success.  Toole had made his colorful character and circumstances around him so brilliantly funny , that you cannot believe, it is the first book of  a 30 year old writer.

Toole surprises all of his readers and brings tears of sadness to their eyes when after so much comical craziness , Ignatius’ neighbor tells the story of his life and his craziness having something to do with the death of his dog Rex in his teenage years, to his former employer. This book is the work of a genius, and as Toole quotes Jonathan Swift about confederacy of dunces against geniuses in the beginning of the book, this happened to him too.

Tragic Life of the Author

I have this habit of googling about the authors of the books I’ve read, once I’m finished reading them, and I was never so surprised as I was when I read about the life of Kennedy Toole. As I’ve read, Toole who at the time of writing A Confederacy of Dunces  was an English Professor, showed his book to many publishers. However, all of them turned him away , saying it wasn’t worthy or complete enough to be published . This had an overwhelmingly negative effect on him and especially on his mental well being.

One final face to face rejection, led to his suicide at the age of 32. His mother, who apparently blamed herself for the pressure Toole had felt for getting his book published did whatever she could to get his book published , and finally realized his son’s wish in 1980. In 1981 (a year after the book was published), it won the Pulitzer Prize for the best fiction of the year.

This is just ironic and this case very tragic that the consensus of those publishers (read dunces) about Toole’s book being unworthy of being published made the title of his book, the story of his life.

The Story of Struggling Authors

Young talented  writers like Toole , still exist today, whom after years of writing their first book and going through long processes of editing would send their work to publishers and their rejection would shatter their world and turn them either to junkies or depressed people looking to find the right time to say goodbye to this world. If I was a publisher I would try to at least read the work of struggling writers objectively, and would refuse to join the confederation of dunces who would only look at the work of well established writers.

I’ve put the first part of the audio book (the other parts you could easily find also at the same page) for those of you too busy to actually sit down and read a book at the top , and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I’m sure John Kennedy Toole, smiles upon all of his readers.

I would be more than glad to hear your thoughts on this book.


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