Happy birthday, John Kennedy Toole

Today, December 17, would have been John Kennedy Toole’s 75th birthday. Toole, the author of the posthumously published, 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, was born in New Orleans, graduated from Tulane, and later taught at St. Mary’s Dominican College (now part of Loyola’s Broadway campus). Sadly, Toole committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31 and never got to see the success and accolades his novel earned. Toole’s mother Thelma worked tirelessly to have her son’s work published after his death and it was at Loyola that she tracked down the famous Southern writer Walker Percy and convinced him to give the manuscript (then called simply Ignatius Reilly) a read. Percy was surprised to like the novel and it is through his efforts, along with Loyola professor emeritus Marcus Smith, that part of the book was first published as an excerpt in the New Orleans Review and then published in full by LSU Press in 1980.

Thelma Toole shopped the manuscript for Dunces around so much that there is debate over which is the “first” or original copy. Special Collections & Archives has two possible candidates, one in the New Orleans Review Collection and one donated by Percy’s longtime friend Lyn Hill Hayward.

Confederacy of Dunces was eventually translated into 35 languages. Special Collections & Archives has copies of many different editions of the book in several different languages, largely in the collection donated by Patrick Samway, S.J.

To view these items and more in their entirety, contact Loyola University Special Collections & Archives at archives@loyno.edu or come see us on the third floor of the Monroe Library.

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

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