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John Kennedy Toole (1937–1969)

Author of A Confederacy of Dunces

4 Works 22,693 Members 498 Reviews 94 Favorited

About the Author

John Kennedy Toole was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 17, 1937. He received an undergraduate degree in English from Tulane University in 1958 and a master's degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1959. He started to pursue a doctorate at Columbia, but he was drafted show more into the U.S. Army in 1961 before he was able to finish. He served for two years at Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico, teaching English to Spanish-speaking recruits. He taught at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Hunter College in Manhattan, and St. Mary's Dominican College. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces and sent a copy to Simon and Schuster for publication, but it was rejected. His failure to get his novel published and his increasing frustration at living with and supporting his parents brought on a breakdown. He committed suicide on March 26, 1969 at the age of 31. A Confederacy of Dunces was finally published in 1980 and won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Neon Bible, which he wrote when he was sixteen years old, was published in 1989. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: John Kennedy Toole

Works by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) 21,503 copies
The Neon Bible (1989) 1,188 copies
1988 1 copy
Neon Bible 1 copy


1001 (84) 1001 books (87) 20th century (189) American (243) American fiction (78) American literature (326) audiobook (63) book club (55) classic (138) classics (138) comedy (191) contemporary fiction (44) ebook (45) favorite (49) favorites (51) fiction (2,584) funny (64) goodreads (43) humor (884) literary fiction (50) literature (298) Louisiana (137) mothers and sons (50) New Orleans (744) novel (442) Novela (67) own (87) owned (49) paperback (41) Pulitzer (185) Pulitzer Prize (280) Pulitzer Prize Winner (65) read (250) Roman (47) satire (282) southern (88) southern literature (81) to-read (924) unread (120) USA (115)

Common Knowledge



A Confederacy of Dunces in Someone explain it to me... (April 2021)
1001 Group Read - March, 2013: A Confederacy of Dunces in 1001 Books to read before you die (March 2013)


I really loved this book, and I'm glad I finally read it. That being said, there were times by the second half when I was AWFULLY tired of Ignatius! But I suppose that's the point. It wasn't a "page-turner" for me. It took me longer than I hoped. Still, satisfying and unpredictable ending, hilarious characters, situations, and dialogue. Great read!
kdegour23 | 476 other reviews | May 29, 2024 |
Strange, brilliant, insane and demented, insightful, hilarious, unsettling - all of these adjectives describe John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer-winning A Confederacy of Dunces. Like being drunk at an amusement park, this book kept me off-kilter, and took me on unexpected rides with unforeseen turns, hills, and valleys.

Ignatius J. Reilly is, without question, the oddest character I've ever met in fiction in the 55+ years that I've been reading. He's obese, hypochondrical, narcissistic, barbaric, and probably a genius. I never grew to like him as his self-interest was unceasing. The rest of the cast of characters are probably drawn from true life combined with feverish imagination - Reilly's harried mother; his octogenarian co-worker, Miss Trixie; an unsuccessful police officer. I've not been to New Orleans since I was a child, and don't remember much about it, but it certainly came to life on these pages. If it is actually representative of New Orleans, it's a city I'd like to visit and observe.

I suspect insanity behind the writing. I know little of John Kennedy Toole, except that he took his own life and never saw his book published, never won the accolades that this book attained, or saw how popular a piece of fiction it became. But I have diagnosed him post-mortem with bipolar disorder (which I share); it would be responsible for the highs of the marvellous burble and whimsy of this book, and the lows which led him to suicide.

I didn't love the book, but I did like it very much, and found it grimly amusing. I think I'd have liked it better if I didn't myself feel like a failure, and if I hadn't seen Ignatius J. Reilly's unsuccessful life as a mirror of my own.
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ahef1963 | 476 other reviews | May 8, 2024 |
I find myself, despite my 3 stars wishing there was a sequel. I'd really enjoy knowing how Ignatius faired in New York (although it's more probable that Myrna throws him out on some stretch of highway).
soup_house | 476 other reviews | Apr 9, 2024 |
an interesting and fun read. I felt the ending too abrupt-but probably only because I wanted more.The characters, with slight exaggerations, were people I knew from my childhood
cspiwak | 476 other reviews | Mar 6, 2024 |



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Associated Authors

Walker Percy Foreword
Alex Capus Translator
Jonny Hannah Illustrator
Sanjulian Cover artist
Myron Grossman Cover artist
Charles Rue Woods Cover designer
Peter Marginter Translator
Margit Salmenoja Translator
Michael Tedesco Cover artist



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