I recently...ah..."procured" a copy of the new Arcade Fire album, Neon Bible.* Imagine my surprise when, searching for reviews online, I happened upon this, the novel of the same name by John Kennedy Toole.
Seeing as how A Confederacy of Dunces is on my all time list of "Books I'd Grab From a Burning Building Before I Would a Great Many People", I'll be procuring (and reviewing) it shortly.
Until then I'll recommend Ignatius Rising: the Life of John Kennedy Toole by Rene Pol Nevils. It's the first major - and as far as I know, the only - biography of Toole, whose life parallels that of his most well known character in ways that are alternately intriguing and disheartening.
It's a compassionate and unflinching portrait of Toole, whose ambition as a writer and sense of self were so deeply entwined that his sad end seems almost inevitable. By Nevil's account, Toole's efforts to get Dunces published were hobbled as much by his inability to let go of his manuscript and his refusal to entertain sympathetic criticism, as they were by cautious or indifferent publishers.
Finally, Ignatius Rising is also a fine elegy for Toole's New Orleans which, lest we forget, is currently moldering in a stew of neglect and national indifference.
*Yes, it's good. Yes, I will buy a copy when it comes out on March 5.