About this Blog

"In the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes." So said the bleached-out, late lamented artist Andy Warhol. Having lived and worked in New York City, Warhol came to fully grasp the hold celebrity has on us. In this very famous sentence, he meant to point out that in a culture fixated on fame, many people will suddenly flash brightly onto the public screen, then--poof--will just as quickly disappear from public view--like shooting stars. Other individuals derive their celebrity from one stellar accomplishment (one hit song, one iconic role, etc.) that they never again match.

This blog is devoted to the one part of our celebrity culture that no one has written much about: temporary/one-shot celebrities.

The pace of modern life has quickened, and now we hear people speaking of someone's 15 seconds of fame. These "celebrities with a lower-case c" who will appear in this blog sometimes come to us from the world of entertainment, sometimes from the world of news. All are fascinating.

The need of our communications media for a continual stream of new material assures that we will have no end of colorful people who go quickly, where celebrity is concerned, from zero to hero (or villain) and back to zero. Now you see 'em, now you don't. What a crazy world, eh?

Temporary celebrities coming from the world of entertainment include one-hit recording artists; TV and movie icons who, although they might have had a great many accomplishments in their career, are remembered for one big role; standouts of reality TV; sports figures remembered for one remarkable accomplishment; and people whose celebrity came from one big role in a commercial or print ad.

News-based temporary celebrities come in many forms: mass/serial killers, other murderers of special note, sex-crime offenders, disgraced figures of government/military/business/media/religion, spies/traitors, hoaxers, femmes/hommes fatale, heroes, whistle blowers, inventors/innovators, and victims.

Celebrity Blogsburg will consider each category in turn.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Victim John Kennedy Toole

Aspiring New Orleans writer John Kennedy Toole died of suicide in his early 30s, the victim of stupid, humorless publishers.

Growing up in the Crescent City, Toole did a remarkable job of soaking up the vagaries of that wonderful and unique city, and of its residents.

He attended Tulane, did a master's at Columbia in New York City and had begun work on his Ph.D. there when, in 1961, he was drafted into the Army.

Thereafter, Toole moved back in with his parents in New Orleans, did some teaching and worked at a number of odd jobs while writing a pair of novels.

He appears to have regarded his first novel as, essentially, a warm-up exercise but was very happy about his second manuscript.

But the book had a fault. It was original and brilliantly funny. It was not about celebrities, nor was its author a celebrity. Consequently, publishers didn't know what to make of it and rejected the manuscript.

Toole knew he had written something good and became so despondent that he took his own life in 1969 by carbon monoxide in a car.

Toole's mother was still determined that the book should be published and considered her son an unappreciated genius, rejected by dunces.

Famous writer Walker Percy was teaching at Loyola in 1976. Mrs. Toole tried phoning him, then went to his office with manuscript in hand. With reluctance, Percy agreed to give it a look.

What he found amazed him: one of the funniest books ever written, with a protagonist unique in all literature. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, was a lazy, supercilious slob, yet so endearingly out of place in the modern world as to be fascinating.

Toole's grasp of the New Orleans patois was just about perfect, as well. Percy saw to it that the book got published, and, as so often has happened in the history of publishing, the book, "A Confederacy of Dunces," was a huge success. It won Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1981 and sold well all over the world. Truly it stands as one of the best works of comic fiction ever--as as a monument to the dubious judgment of book publishers.

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