35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Toole's Many Tools,
This review is from: The Neon Bible (Paperback)
Toole wrote only two books in his short life, and what markedly differing books they are! THE NEON BIBLE, although published last, was the first of Toole's novels, written when he was just a teen. While it lacks the much-touted satirical humor found in A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, THE NEON BIBLE is a valiant first effort, one deserving of the praise which came to Toole too late to provide the publishing opportunity he longed for.
Author Florence King has likened this novel to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. And while it has much in common with the storytelling approach of Harper Lee's book, it more accurate to call THE NEON BIBLE a short, Southern version of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, told from the male perspective, of course. We listen, interested, as David tells us the story of his childhood in an isolated valley community. In his own way, David learns what Christianity is and is not. And as a young man he makes a difficult but realistic discovery: "They used to tell us in school to think for yourself, but you couldn't do that in the town."
I gave THE NEON BIBLE a 9, not a 10, primarily because of some unexplained anomolies in the plot. For example, he knows his Aunt Mae is not coming back for him, yet he quits his good job anyway, and we never know why. Plot points such as that one make you feel that the character has stopped thinking like a real person for a while.
Vastly different from his second, Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, THE NEON BIBLE shows us that Toole had many tools, and that he refined them over the years of his short, unrecognized career. People who speculate about his potential as an author are more than justified. I, too, find myself wondering what we've missed by his absence . . . .