THE ICON: John Kennedy Toole
THE LEGACY: Blame Fortuna and her cruel, capricious wheel. There’s no better way to explain the intermingling of comedy and tragedy at work in the story of John Kennedy Toole. His “Confederacy of Dunces” wouldn’t be published until after he took his own life in 1969. He would therefore never see his book, championed by none other than Walker Percy, hailed as a comic masterpiece. He would never hold the posthumous Pulitzer Prize it would win him. And he would neither live to see his book, with its pitch-perfect capturing of the local patois, nearly universally recognized as the quintessential New Orleans novel, nor its main character — the long-suffering Ignatius J. Reilly — embraced as one of the city’s most beloved fictional characters.
THE ARTIST: Gabriel Flores, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “The tragedy of the book is the tragedy of the author — his suicide in 1969 at the age of thirty-two. Another tragedy is the body of work we have been denied.” — Walker Percy, in his introduction to “A Confederacy of Dunces”