The troupe, with Toole as its star, consisted of 50 children of varying skills and ages. He especially enjoyed New York and filled a cherished scrapbook with pictures from his visit which included trips on the New York City Subway System, an excursion on a boat in the New York Harbor , visits to the Statue of Liberty , Chinatown , Times Square and with the program from a performance of The Rockettes he had seen. The book, of course, was bad, but I sent it off a couple of times anyway. College studies and professorships[ edit ] In high school Toole, as editor of the school newspaper, had written a section of gossip and wit under a pseudonym entitled Fish Tales, and while at Tulane he worked on the college newspaper, the Hullabaloo, writing articles, reviewing books, and drawing cartoons.
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The troupe, with Toole as its star, consisted of 50 children of varying skills and ages. He especially enjoyed New York and filled a cherished scrapbook with pictures from his visit which included trips on the New York City Subway System, an excursion on a boat in the New York Harbor , visits to the Statue of Liberty , Chinatown , Times Square and with the program from a performance of The Rockettes he had seen.
The book, of course, was bad, but I sent it off a couple of times anyway. College studies and professorships[ edit ] In high school Toole, as editor of the school newspaper, had written a section of gossip and wit under a pseudonym entitled Fish Tales, and while at Tulane he worked on the college newspaper, the Hullabaloo, writing articles, reviewing books, and drawing cartoons.
Reilly pushes a hot dog cart around town, usually eating most of the profits. He worked for J. Tonkel, who married one of the Haspel daughters. In , Toole graduated from Tulane with honors.
In his free time he dated Ruth Kathmann, another student from Tulane, who was studying journalism at Columbia. Joel L. Fletcher, a close friend, noted, "Ken has a real gift for mimicry and a refined sense of the absurd His friends noticed this and forced him to pay for and throw a party at his home.
His friend Pat Rickels commented that Thelma "was absolutely convinced that he was without flaw and that all the hopes of the world lay in him. It was an extreme form of maternalism, where all your pride and all your hopes are in one person. He had to grow up with that burden. She was a very ostentatious, shrill, loud-voiced, bossy, bragging woman.
Boethius was the favorite philosopher of Ignatius J. Reilly, who frequently referred to Fortuna and Consolation of Philosophy. Like Ignatius, Byrne was a self-admitted devoted slob who played the lute, and also wore a deerstalker hunting cap, which Toole frequently chided him about. However, when he was offered a teaching position at Hunter College in New York, which suited his desire to study at Columbia, he chose to go there instead.
The couple loved the cinema and movie-going was a constant staple of their dates. Army in In under a year, he attained the rank of sergeant, and received numerous awards and citations. Toole, however, began to dread the frustrations of military life and the oppressive heat of Puerto Rico. I am quite powerful in my own little way and exercise more control over personnel and affairs in general than I had ever suspected I would; over my private telephone I contact headquarters, switching people here and there, waiting, listening, planning.
In its own lunatic way, this is very entertaining After a year in Puerto Rico as of 25 Nov , I find that the positive aspects of that year outweigh the negative. In my own curious way I have risen "meteorically" in the Army without having ever been a decent prospect for military life; but I feel that my very peculiar assignment has been responsible. The insanity and unreality of Puerto Rico itself has been interesting at all times that it was not overwhelming. Please write.
He also engaged in one of the favorite activities of military personnel on the island: alcohol consumption. Both the soldiers and the instructors at the base drank excessively, as alcohol was cheap and plentiful.
The decreased draft has meant no trainees since June Toole was notably depressed and while dining at a local hotel she noted that "the windows on all sides of our table were filled with perfect rainbows.
Ken was sitting in a pocket of darkness surrounded by these brilliant colored arches and he never looked at them. However, under any circumstances the loss of the ring affects me deeply. Privacy was a significant luxury on the island with some of the men renting rooms in nearby hotels so they could have some solitude.
In contrast to almost all other army barracks where gays kept their sexual orientation a secret, there was an openly gay contingent which flaunted their homosexuality.
The problem came to a head when a gay instructor attempted suicide by overdosing on APC aspirin, phenacetin , and caffeine tablets after being spurned by another soldier. Ultimately, they did not report his behavior and the army never filed any charges but his relationships with many of the men were irrevocably changed. It was not a secret that Toole was writing a book. Late at night, his fellow soldiers could often hear the sound of the typewriter keys. I sincerely hope that he succeeds The article, incidentally, was very badly written; some of it was almost painful to read.
I thought that he could do better than that. However, the quality of the writing in the Picayune-States combine is uniformly childish and clumsy. They are very poorly edited newspapers. Return home and completion of Dunces[ edit ] Toole received a hardship discharge as his parents were having difficult economic times, his father struggling with deafness and an increasing incidence of irrational fear and paranoia. Kennedy caused Toole to fall into severe depression.
He stopped writing and drank heavily. It has received praise for its accurate use of various New Orleans dialects, including the Yat dialect. It concerns protagonist Ignatius J.
Reilly, a slothful, obese, self-styled philosopher who lives with his mother. After an early financial setback for the Reilly family, caused by Ignatius, he is forced by his mother to seek employment in a variety of menial jobs to help the household financially, for which he is continually resentful of her. He subsequently takes revenge on several businesses for perceived slights.
He incites black workers to insurrection at Levy Pants Company, eats more hot dogs than he sells, and attempts to break up a strip club. Along the way he runs into a divergent cast of characters, including Myrna Minkoff, a rebellious socialist intellectual with whom he conducts an ongoing literary correspondence.
He was extroverted and private. He had a strong The book eventually reached senior editor Robert Gottlieb , who had talked the then-unknown Joseph Heller into completing the classic comic novel Catch He felt that it had one basic flaw which he expressed to Toole in an early letter:  It seems that you understand the problem—the major problem—involved, but think that the conclusion can solve it.
More is required, though. Not only do the various threads need resolving; they can always be tied together conveniently. When he found out Gottlieb was out of town, Toole felt humiliated.
Initially, although Toole was disappointed that the novel could not be published as is, he was exuberant that a major publisher was interested in it. Students marveled at his wit, and Toole would make entire classes burst into laughter while hardly showing expression.
In it Gottlieb remarked that he had shown the novel to Candida Donadio, a literary agent whose clients included Joseph Heller and Thomas Pynchon.
Later on in the letter, Gottlieb stated that he still had faith in Toole as a writer and that he wished to hold onto the manuscript in case he or Toole would be able to see a way around his objections.
In this conversation Gottlieb re-iterated that he would not accept the novel without further revision. What more can I say? Gottlieb wrote him back on January 17, , concluding their correspondence with a letter where he re-iterated his feelings on the book and stated that he wanted to read it again when Toole created another revision. Initially, his Dominican students marveled at his wit and comedic talents. Later, as he began suffering from mental problems, his behavior appalled them. Toole took the rejection of the book in his intended form as a tremendous personal blow.
His comedic performances during lectures remained especially popular among students. Carter showed little interest in the book, but complimented him on it. The face-to-face rejection Carter dealt Toole drove him further into despair and he became angry with his mother for causing him further embarrassment. He continued to drink heavily, and gained a great deal of weight, causing him to have to purchase an entire new wardrobe. Toole tried to maintain a sense of normality and enrolled in Tulane in the fall of with the hopes of acquiring a Ph.
Shortly before his suicide, Toole attempted to visit the home of the deceased writer. It was during this trip that he stopped outside Biloxi, Mississippi , and committed suicide by running a garden hose from the exhaust pipe in through the window of his car on March 26, The suicide note inside the envelope was destroyed by his mother, who later gave varying vague accounts of its details. Insane ravings. As the location was unremarkable, Kubach did not understand why Toole had taken him there.
The head of Dominican gave a brief eulogy; however, as the institution was Catholic, his suicide was never mentioned. Over a five-year period, she sent it out to seven publishers and they each rejected it. He admitted to hoping it would be so bad that he could discard it after reading a few pages.
And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity; surely it was not possible that it was so good. It took over three more years, as he attempted to get several parties interested in it.
A year later, in , Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book has sold more than 1. The play was staged at the Huntington Theatre in Boston.
The Neon Bible
Its main appeal is as an early look at the writer who would later write A Confederacy of Dunces. Toole, describing the novel during correspondence with an editor, wrote "In , when I was 16, I wrote a book called The Neon Bible, a grim, adolescent, sociological attack upon the hatreds caused by the various Calvinist religions in the South—and the fundamentalist mentality is one of the roots of what was happening in Alabama, etc. The book, of course, was bad, but I sent it off a couple of times anyway. Like A Confederacy of Dunces, the novel had a long and difficult road to publication. The Neon Bible was written in , but after initial attempts at securing publisher proved fruitless, the novel was put aside and Toole eventually began work on A Confederacy of Dunces.
John Kennedy Toole