Category Archives: john kennedy toole

44th anniversay of JKT’s death

JKT's final resting place.  Photo taken 3/26/12. Message left to Toole on the paper had been washed away by the rain.

JKT’s final resting place. Photo taken 3/26/12. Message left to Toole on the paper had been washed away by the rain.

Today is the 44th anniversary of John Kennedy Toole’s death. Every year this day makes me ponder the question of “why” someone so talented, someone with so much promise, would take his own life.

A few months ago The Daily Beast published some new findings I made on his death.  At least for me, this story brings a kind of rationale to his untimely end.  You can read “The Professor and the Doomsday Clock” here.

Rest in Peace, Professor Toole.

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Filed under a confederacy of dunces, biography, john kennedy toole, suicide, toole biography, toole biograpy

BBC on A Confederacy of Dunces: the Movie

BBC’s Matt Wells takes a fresh look at the story behind A Confederacy of Dunces and why attempts to make the novel into a film seem to be cursed:

Curse of the Confederacy of Dunces – BBC 4 Radio


March 18, 2013 · 10:06 pm

Paperback Release, Talks and the BBC


Some new developments in the past few weeks:

The paperback for Butterfly in the Typewriter will be released at the end of March with a new cover as pictured above. Look closely–JKT’s face is made of typewriter letters.  Pretty cool, I think.  With the release of the paperback this means your last chance to pick up a hardcover edition draws near.

On March 11 at 11 a.m. EST (16:00 GMT) the BBC Radio 4 will air the show “Curse of the Dunces.”  I participated in this production. It will be of particular interest to those of you who are intrigued by the attempts to adapt Confederacy into a film.

I have two more talks scheduled. At the end of March I will be at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, VA. Our panel will be at the University of Virginia Bookstore. The last time I was there I was buying books for my last graduate seminar, so it will be quite meaningful to return to sign my own book.

I will also be speaking at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland on May 18. More details to follow.

Other dates can be seen here.

Lastly, I am happy to announce Butterfly has been nominated for the Library of Virginia 2013 Literary Award. Finalists will be announced this summer.

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JKT’s Library


This is not a picture of JKT’s library. Image taken from The BookCase Project

There is much you can learn about a person from the books they own. If you ask me over to your house don’t be surprised if I spend considerable time staring at your bookshelves. And if all you have is an e-reader and you smugly declare books are passé—please do not invite me to your home.

One way I came to better understand John Kennedy Toole (who left no journal behind and only a handful of letters) was by reading the books on his shelf at the time of his death. In Butterfly in the Typewriter, I reference many of them, but I did not include the list of titles. I promised Spencer Throssell (@Spencaurus) this morning I would post it.

Below you will find the titles that appear on a document composed by New Orleans bookseller Rhoda Faust. She founded the famous Maple Street Book Shop. She was also close to Walker Percy, and through him became a friend to Thelma Toole, who offered Faust her son’s books to sell in her store. Eventually, Thelma and Rhoda had a falling out over the rights to publish JKT’s first novel The Neon Bible. But before that happened, lucky buyers picked apart and purchased JKT’s library.

So friends, if you recognize these titles and years listed, check your shelves. You may find some of Toole’s marginalia and he usually inscribed the books with his name and address.

Before I get to the long list let me first point out some important books that do not appear on Faust’s inventory, one’s that I know Toole read. These are, in no particular order:

A collection of Harvard Classics (gifted to Joel Fletcher but unfortunately ruined by water damage)

A collection of Children’s Books (recently sold at auction through Sotheby’s. University of Louisiana at Lafayette now owns them)

Many Evelyn Waugh novels, particularly the early comical ones.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (Toole frantically requested his mother send this to him in Puerto Rico)

Stern by Bruce Jay Friedman (Toole told Robert Gottlieb how Stern profoundly impacted him)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac (his copy of this book is in the Toole Papers. He picked this up while at Columbia University 1958-1959)

Superworm by George Deaux


Rhoda Faust’s catalog appears as such:

Approach to Literature (1964) by Cleanth Brooks

Queen Elizabeth (Knopf, 1929) by Katherine Anthony

Archy and Mehitabel (DD, 1955) by don Marquis

Elizabethan World Picture (1956) by EMW Tillyard

The Group (1963) by Mary McCarthy

The Political Works of Edmund Spencer (1921) by Edmund Spencer

Romantic and Victorian Poetry (1954) Ed. by William Frost

All the King’s Men (1953) by Robert Penn Warren

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (1958) by W.B. Yeats

The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy

One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding (1961) by Robert Gover

A Thirsty Evil (1958) by Gore Vidal

Finnegans Wake (1959) by James Joyce

Goodbye to All That (1957) by Robert Graves

Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Pragmatism and American Culture: Problems in American Culture (1950) Ed. by Gail Kennedy

The Big Change (1961) by Frederick Lewis Allen

Inquest (1966) by Edward Jay Epstein

Selected Poetry (1950) by William Wordsworth

The Young American Writers (1967) by Richard Costelanety

Viking Portable American Lit. Survey (1968) Ed. by Stein & Gross

Selected Poetry & Prose (1951) by Samuel T. Coleridge

To an Early Grave (1964) by Wallace Markfield

The Humanization of Eddie Cement (1964) by George Deaux

A Mother’s Kisses (1964) by Bruce Jay Friedman

The Poetical Works (1933) by Chaucer

Ulysses (1946) by James Joyce

By the way—if you like looking at overflowing bookshelves and interesting ways to display books, check out The BookCase Project on Facebook.


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Happy Birthday John Kennedy Toole!

Toole in Washington, DC. May 1954. Courtesy of Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University.  Edited by Joseph Sanford.

Toole in Washington, DC. May 1954. Courtesy of Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University. Edited by Joseph Sanford.

Today, December 17th, would have been John Kennedy Toole’s 75th birthday. Over the past few months I have been contemplating one of the more chilling stories about his untimely end.  And while I hesitate to explore the events leading up to his death on the anniversary of his birth, the story clearly illustrates how the tragedy of his suicide never really overshadows the brilliance of his life. 

The Daily Beast published the story here.

Happy Birthday Professor Toole!

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Obama and daughters at my local bookstore

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Yesterday President Obama and his daughters stopped by my local independent bookstore One More Page Books in Arlington, VA. They bought some children’s books and, in doing so, supported a small business that serves as a beacon for readers in the DC metro area to engage with writers and the written word.  They regularly host author talks and themed literary events.  And they are the only store I know where you can pick up your next read, some decadent chocolates and fine wine.   

The folks at One More Page have helped my readers as well. On several occasions over the past year sellers at my talks at book festivals have sold out.  I had no complaints about that, but I did feel bad for the readers unable to get a signed copy of Butterfly in the Typewriter that day. Fortunately, I was able to refer them to One More Page and we got inscribed copies delivered to their homes. On one occasion it was for a former student of John Kennedy Toole.

This is the kind of service that most independent booksellers can offer and why I think it is important to support them.  Like many authors, I am always happy to stop by my bookstore to sign or inscribe some books.  After all, reading is more than consumption of a product.   At its best it creates a connection between reader and author.  The more personal I can make that connection, the better. 

Of course, I am grateful for all the bookstores that have welcomed me this year, from New Orleans to Richmond.  But I am especially happy for One More Page to get this much deserved recognition.

Read about the Obamas’ visit to One More Page here.

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Filed under a confederacy of dunces, dominican college, john kennedy toole, toole biography

Ignatius J. Reilly for President

In recognition of Election Day, this little gem is from the Toole Papers at Tulane University.  What would an Ignatius Reilly presidency look like?


Courtesy of Louisiana Research Center at Tulane.



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