A Confederacy of Dunces

After my interesting trip to the South I am adding another book and author to my list of inspirations, A Confederacy of Dunces by of John Kennedy Toole. His story is a tragic one. He (like David Foster Wallace) committed suicide thinking his book was a failure, after it was rejected by Robert Gottlieb who was an editor for The New Yorker and worked for Simon & Schuster. This just goes to show how often the New Yorker makes the wrong call.

I may at some point write some material in which I use A Confederacy of Dunces as an inspiration. I can see PG Wodehouse in the relationship between the main character and his mother. Although Ignatius is contemptuous of his mother, unlike Bertie who appreciates Jeeves, he is completely depending upon her.  The treatment of the mother seems a little harsh at first, and the book takes some time and some effort to get into. After closing inspection the mother gives as good as she gets. I also read that his mother saved his manuscript for 11 years and resubmitted it again and this time the book was accepted. I wonder on how much the mother son relationship was based on his own relationship with his mother. I should read his biography at some point when I have time, there is one called the Butterfly in the Typewriter.

I was just shown by My Google Feed The Guardian article which defended Robert Gottlieb for rejecting the A Confederacy of Dunces. The article, which then was later retracted with an apology piece, gave every excuse under the sun, such as he was too busy to read every article or book, when the author of the article has no idea what if that was even in the case. Then the article goes on to say Robert Gottlieb wanted to “help” make the book more meaningful and suggested many changes and corrections. I am sure that these changes would have made the book worse. I don’t believe a writer should be forced to compromise his vision.  I don’t know if the writer is some friend of Robert Gottlieb who is trying to make him look better, but it just does not convince me in the sightless, that his actions were any less abominable. Who appointed Robert Gottlieb the taste police who gets to pick what types of comedy the public finds amusing? He sat on and suppressed a work from publication with demands for changes.  Then he stole ideas from A Confederacy of Dunces for another book.

Its all in the series of articles if you wish to read them, but I am not linking to them as I don’t wish to endorse them by linking and taking you to a page with many ads. Many of these people they hire to write literary criticism are not insightful. They are only creating articles that are paid for by the word, and so they give too much information. The information given is mostly rehashes and summaries. What I am seeing is that the writer should have shopped his novel around to many other publishers. Things were different in the 60s, but could some kind of racism come into play with Gottlieb’s rejection of the novel? I am only suggesting this because it seems to me the novel is perfectly good and perfectly funny, and its not really about race. I have not even noticed as I am still in the process of going over the novel, anything racial coming into play. But, the guardian article mentions race, so I am only suggesting that another reason, and not the novels lack of merit, such either meanness, jealously, or racism may have contributed the suppression. Had the novel been published, maybe the author would not killed himself and written another novel or a follow up?  Never have I seen so great a case of literary injustice as the case of A Confederacy of Dunces. Any attempt to explain or excuse it seems to be a big mistake.

Many actors have also been considered for the movie option such as John Candy who would have been my first choice, and John Belushi, who may have have also been able to nail the part. John Goodman is too nice a guy to take on the role. Now, they are looking for a younger and still living actor to play the part. I can’t think of anyone who could play it. The actor needs to be around 30 years old.

The Wikipedia article about Robert Gottlieb has also been suppressed with the Toole incident having been moved to the talk section of his entry, but you can still see it if you click on the talk and I have also saved the talk page to Archive Is, so you can search for it if the Talk Page is deleted. As soon as Robert Gottlieb dies, I assume this criticism can be moved to the main page. The talk page suggests even harshly of the blame for the suicide. Although Toole made changes at the request of Gottlieb, Gottlieb still refused to publish and said, he had lost interest in the novel. I am still puzzled as to why Toole accepted this untalented and useless “editor” as the only way to get his novel published.


I have finally read A Review of A Confederacy of Dunces which I feel is worthy of posting a link. The reviewer really takes apart the book and breaks it down in a way, that I am unable to do at this early stage in my research. I like to spend months and often years mulling something and go over it many times before I step out on a limb and review a book or a story. But, I will say this, there was a letter that Ignatius writes in the name of “Levy Pants,” that was so funny I had to laugh until I cried. This is the kind of book that takes repeated readings and maybe some research) to understand fully.

Note: Jonathan Rosenbaum did not write this review, but he reposted it, which made it accessible, so I thank him. I wonder if I could also repost it? But, I don’t want to steal his thunder.

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