In 1969, a woman named Thelma Toole was forced to accomplish one of the hardest tasks any parent would ever have to do. She had to clean out her son’s house after he committed suicide. While going through his belongings, she found a carbon copy of a manuscript that had seen better days. The outsides were smudged and looked to not have seen the light of day for some time. Confident in her son’s genius, she contacted Walker Percy, an author and professor at Loyola University. Professor Percy had been in the literary world for a long time and people trying to pass off manuscripts to him came around more frequently than pigs in mudslides. He had no interest in taking a look at Ms. Toole’s potential book, and even less interest in one that was in the condition she had on hand.
Hoping the first page of the book would be rubbish so he could be done with the situation, Professor Percy started to read. He went through the first page....and another....and another. He went through the manuscript one page at a time until the entire piece was read. Once finished, he knew he was carrying something unlike anything else he had ever read and started working on getting it published.
John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” was published in 1980, 11 years after he took his own life. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 and has become one of the most celebrated books in American literature. If one devoted mother did not seek out the attention she knew her son deserved, we all would be deprived of this brilliant work of art.
The origins of this book makes me wonder what else is out there that has not seen the light of day. What paintings are lying in attics collecting dust? Which poems are sitting in notebooks whose words have only been read by the poet? There are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of creative masterpieces waiting to shake the foundation of your soul located throughout the world. It is the responsibility of every one of us to accomplish the deed of Ms. Toole, and work tirelessly to ensure they receive the attention they deserve. The world will be forever changed for the better when you do.