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John Kennedy Toole

John Kennedy Toole (1937- March 26, 1969) was an American novelist, born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Toole received a master's degree at Columbia University, and then spent a year as assistant professor of English at Southwestern Louisiana[?]. Toole then went to New York to take a teaching position at Hunter College. Toole also spent some time pursuing a doctorate at Columbia, but did not finish because he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1961 and served two years in Puerto Rico teaching English to Spanish speaking recruits.

After his time in the military, Toole returned to New Orleans and lived with his parents, and began to teach at Dominican College[?]. It was around this time that Toole sent his manuscript for A Confederacy of Dunces[?] to Simon and Schuster[?]. After initial excitement about the book, the publisher eventually rejected it, saying that the book "isn't really about anything".

Toole spent time hanging around the French Quarter with musicians. On at least one occasion, he even helped one musician friend with his second job selling tamales from a cart. After Toole graduated with honors from Tulane[?], he worked briefly in a men's clothing factory. Both of these scenarios played a part in the inspiration of Dunces.

Toole began to deteriorate rapidly after he lost hope of publishing his book, which he considered to be a masterpiece. Toole began to drink heavily, started to take medication for headaches, stopped teaching at Dominican and stopped attending doctoral classes at Tulane[?].

Biographers have since suggested that Toole was confused about his sexuality, which added to his depression. Friends and family of Toole disagree with this idea, including David Kubach[?], longtime friend who also served with Toole in the army. The authors of the Biography did not know him, and "not knowing him makes a big difference", Kubach said.

Toole committed suicide on March 26, 1969. Toole put one end of a garden hose into the exhaust pipe of his car, and the other into window of the car where he was sitting.

After his death, Toole's mother insisted that author Walker Percy read the manuscript for Dunces. Percy eventually gave in and fell in love with the book. A Confederacy of Dunces[?] was published in 1980, and Percy provided the foreword.

Toole, and his novel, posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The book has sold more than 1.5 million copies in 18 languages.



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