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Toole, John Kennedy

published dunces confederacy novel

(US, 1937–69)

John Kennedy Toole's second novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, was published posthumously. His mother fought to bring out the book, without success until she found Walker Percy, another Southern writer, who championed it and published excerpts in the New Orleans Review. It was finally published in 1979 to critical acclaim, and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981. Toole committed suicide at the age of 32, due at least in part to discouragement over his own failure to publish his work. His first novel, Neon Bible, was published in 1989. Ignatius J. Reilly, the shambolic comic hero of A Confederacy of Dunces, suffers a series of disasters and misadventures alongside which he airs his philosophy of life in an entertaining rant. The title comes from Jonathan Swift: ‘When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, the dunces are all in confederacy against him.’

Saul Bellow, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty  AT

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