Not only did Toole die before his time, he also died before he saw his Pulitzer-winning Confederacy of Dunces published. After a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression — much of which becomes apparent in Toole’s seminal novel — and anger from persistent manuscript rejection, the promising author and academic committed suicide at the age of 31. Readers only know of his brilliant body of work, comprised of the aforementioned book as well as The Neon Bible, because of his mother Thelma’s insistence on pushing them onto Loyola professor Walker Percy.
But had Toole been able to get a handle on his demons and push through, just a bit longer, what he would have written would have been limitless. Maybe there would have been yet another glorious digest about life and loss in the Big Easy. Maybe he would have landed another Pulitzer. Maybe there would have finally been a film adaptation of his novel.
Whatever he would have done, what he left behind was certainly something that will live on.
-Autumn Warren, Guest Contributor