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Collection Number: 05315

Collection Title: Rhoda K. Faust Collection on John Kennedy Toole and Other Materials, 1925-2000

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 2.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1000 items)
Abstract Rhoda K. Faust owned and operated Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, both of New Orleans, La. Around 1979, Faust befriended Thelma Toole, mother of author John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969). They, with help from author Walker Percy, succeeded in convincing the Louisiana State University Press to publish John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces in 1980. Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the novel in 1981, eleven years after he had committed suicide. Toole's first novel was was The Neon Bible, which he wrote at age 16. According to Rhoda K. Faust, Thelma Toole loaned Faust the manuscript of this earlier work and granted her permission to publish it. Sometime around 1980, Thelma Toole demanded the return of the manuscript and denied having given Faust permission to publish it. Faust filed suit claiming that Toole had entered into a verbal contract with her. Courts in Louisiana failed to recognize the validity of the verbal contract. Materials in the collection include scrapbooks compiled by Faust containing photocopies of letters, 1962-1963, from John Kennedy Toole to his parents, and correspondence, 1963-1964, between Toole and publisher Robert Gottlieb of Simon and Schuster regarding possible publication of Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces . Additional materials include correspondence and legal documents, 1980-1986, related to the lawsuit between Rhoda Faust and Thelma Toole regarding publication rights to John Kennedy Toole's first novel, The Neon Bible; clippings related to John Kennedy Toole, Rhoda Faust, and the lawsuit; materials related to Faust's management of Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing; photographs of John Kennedy Toole, Thelma Toole, and Rhoda K. Faust; audiocassettes and a videotape related to John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces; information regarding Toole's personal library; and three coffee mugs belonging to Toole. There is also correspondence with Reid Mitchell, 1982-1985, about the possible publication of his manuscript, Carnivaltime; with Nancy Lemann, 1983-1985, relating to her role as editorial advisor to Faust Publishing; and with Craig Bebinger, who wrote an article describing an incident at the Maple Street Bookshop.
Creator Faust, Rhoda K.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
Use of audiocassettes or videotapes may require production of listening or viewing copies.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Rhoda K. Faust Collection on John Kennedy Toole and Other Materials #5315, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from Rhoda K. Faust of New Orleans, La., in February 2007; transferred from the Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in February 2007 (Acc. 100601).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Rhoda K. Faust owned and operated Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, both of New Orleans, La. Around 1979, Faust befriended Thelma Toole, mother of author John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969). Together Faust and Thelma Toole, with the help of author Walker Percy, succeeded in convincing the Louisiana State University Press to publish John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces in 1980. Although John Kennedy Toole had committed suicide eleven years earlier in 1969, he was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for A Confederacy of Dunces in 1981. Before writing A Confederacy of Dunces in his late 20s, John Kennedy Toole had authored another novel, The Neon Bible, at age 16. According to Rhoda K. Faust, Toole's mother, Thelma Toole, loaned Faust the manuscript of this earlier work and granted her permission to publish it. Sometime around 1980, the friendly relationship between Faust and Thelma Toole turned sour, and Thelma Toole demanded the return of the manuscript and denied ever giving Faust permission to publish The Neon Bible . Faust filed suit against Thelma Toole claiming that Toole had entered into a verbal contract with her, which granted her company, Faust Publishing, the right to publish The Neon Bible. Lower courts and appeals courts in Louisiana failed to recognize the validity of the verbal contract. The Neon Bible was finally published by Grove Press in 1989.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection is materials from New Orleans, La., bookseller and publisher Rhoda K. Faust, most of which relate to Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Kennedy Toole. Materials include scrapbooks compiled by Faust containing photocopies of letters, 1962-1963, from John Kennedy Toole to his parents, and correspondence, 1963-1964, between Toole and publisher Robert Gottlieb of Simon and Schuster regarding possible publication of Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces . Additional materials include correspondence and legal documents, 1980-1986, related to the lawsuit between Rhoda Faust and Thelma Toole regarding publication rights to John Kennedy Toole's first novel, The Neon Bible; clippings related to John Kennedy Toole, Rhoda Faust, and the lawsuit; materials related to Faust's management of Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing; photographs of John Kennedy Toole, Thelma Toole, and Rhoda K. Faust; audiocassettes and a videotape related to John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces ; information regarding Toole's personal library; and three coffee mugs belonging to Toole. There is also correspondence with Reid Mitchell, 1982-1985, about the possible publication of his manuscript, Carnivaltime; with Nancy Lemann, 1983-1985, relating to her role as editorial advisor to Faust Publishing ; and with Craig Bebinger, who wrote an article describing an incident at the Maple Street Bookshop.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000.

About 500 items.

Arrangement: Pages have been removed from scrapbooks, but original order is preserved.

Pages from four scrapbooks compiled by New Orleans bookseller and publisher Rhoda K. Faust include photocopies of letters, 1962-1963, from John Kennedy Toole in Puerto Rico to his parents; photocopies of correspondence, 1964-1966, between Toole and publisher Robert Gottlieb of Simon and Schuster regarding possible publication of Toole's manuscript A Confederacy of Dunces; correspondence, 1979-1983, between Faust and Toole's mother, Thelma Toole; materials, 1980-1987, related to the lawsuit between Faust and Thelma Toole regarding publication rights to The Neon Bible; and various clippings, 1978-2000, related to John Kennedy Toole and his novels, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Neon Bible , the lawsuit, and Rhoda K. Faust.

Folder 1

John Kennedy Toole letters, 1962-1966 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 1

Letters from Toole to his parents during his service in the United States Army as an English instructor in Puerto Rico. Toole discusses his Puerto Rican students, the weather, his obsession with Marilyn Monroe, and his "creative writing." It was during Toole's service in Puerto Rico that he wrote the bulk of A Confederacy of Dunces. Also included is correspondence between Toole and publisher Robert Gottlieb of Simon and Schuster regarding possible publication of Toole's manuscript. Ultimately, Gottlieb passed on Toole's manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces, which was later awarded the Pulitzer Prize after it was published posthumously in 1980. In his letters to Toole, Gottlieb notes that "there must be a point to everything in the book, a real point, not just amusingness that's forced to figure itself out."

Folder 2

Thelma Toole material, 1979-1980 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 2

Letters from Thelma Toole to Rhoda K. Faust, Walker Percy, and others regarding publication of A Confederacy of Dunces. Also included are "A Diversified Program of Piano Selections and Nostalgic Songs Dedicated to My Genius Son..." and other programs and guest lists for receptions held by Thelma Toole and Faust in honor of the book's publication.

Folder 3

Rhoda K. Faust versus Thelma Toole, 1979-1980 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 3

Correspondence and other materials related to a disagreement between Faust and Thelma Toole regarding publication rights to The Neon Bible, a novel written by John Kennedy Toole when he was 16. Faust alleged that Thelma Toole entered into a verbal contract granting her the right to publish the novel. In addition, Thelma Toole loaned Faust correspondence, books, and other items belonging to her son, John Kennedy Toole. Thelma Toole denied the existence of the verbal contract and demanded that Faust return the correspondence, manuscripts, books, and other items related to John Kennedy Toole.

Folder 4

Rhoda K. Faust versus Thelma Toole, 1981-1982 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 4

Includes letters from Thelma Toole to Rhoda Faust and other members of the Toole family, letters from Thelma Toole's attorneys, and letters from various publishers to Rhoda Faust regarding The Neon Bible.

Folder 5

Rhoda K. Faust versus Thelma Toole, 1983-1985 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 5

Correspondence regarding legal matters, court documents, and a copy of Thelma Toole's will. Also included is a chronology of conversations between Faust and Toole compiled by Faust.

Folder 6

Rhoda K. Faust versus Thelma Toole: Depositions, 1985 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 6

Depositions of Rhoda K. Faust and Chris Pecot, 21 May 1985.

Folder 7-8

Folder 7

Folder 8

Rhoda K. Faust versus Thelma Toole, 1985-1986 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 7-8

Correspondence between Faust and her attorney Brian Begue and related court documents.

Folder 9

Rhoda K. Faust versus Thelma Toole, 1986 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 9

Documents related to Faust's appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Louisiana. Also included is correspondence regarding negotiations by Faust Publishing and Grove Press to publish The Neon Bible.

Folder 10

Sample Publishing Agreements, 1988 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 10

Folder 11-17

Folder 11

Folder 12

Folder 13

Folder 14

Folder 15

Folder 16

Folder 17

Clippings, 1978-2000 #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 11-17

Clippings of articles related to John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces , The Neon Bible, Rhoda Faust, Faust Publishing, and Walker Percy.

Folder 18

Rhoda K. Faust: Notes #05315, Series: "1. Rhoda K. Faust Scrapbook Pages, 1962-2000." Folder 18

Handwritten notes of Rhoda K. Faust regarding the trial, publication of The Neon Bible, and other topics.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985.

About 400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Correspondence and other materials related to Rhoda Faust's management of the Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, both of New Orleans, La. Correspondence concerns the possible publication of John Kennedy Toole's first novel, The Neon Bible ; selection of additional items for publication; financial matters; and the sale of John Kennedy Toole's personal library.

Folder 19

Proposals for a Book Publishing Company, 1979-1981 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 19

Folder 20

A Confederacy of Dunces, 1980 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 20

Publicity, accounts of expenses, and invitation letters related to an autograph and release party held by Rhoda Faust and Thelma Toole to celebrate the publication of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.

Folder 21

Faust Publishing: Correspondence, 1981-1985 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 21

Folder 22

John Kennedy Toole's Library, 1981 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 22

A list of books belonging to John Kennedy Toole given to Rhoda Faust by Thelma Toole. The list includes Faust's asking price for each book and notes on condition, annotations, and signatures. There are also letters from individuals and organizations interested in purchasing the Toole library.

Folder 23

Reid Mitchell: Letters to Rhoda K. Faust, 1982-1985 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 23

Letters from author Reid Mitchell mostly concern the possible publication of his manuscript, Carnivaltime.

Folder 24

Nancy Lemann: Letters to Rhoda K. Faust, circa 1983-1985 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 24

Nancy Lemann served as an editorial advisor to Faust Publishing. Correspondence concerns the publishing company, the merits of Toole's novel The Neon Bible , and her experiences in New York City. Also included is an article by Lemann titled "Down the Nile".

Folder 25

Craig Bebinger: "The Opportunist," 1996 #05315, Series: "2. Maple Street Bookshop and Faust Publishing, 1979-1985." Folder 25

Includes correspondence and an article by Bebinger titled "The Opportunist" that describes an incident in Faust's Maple Street Bookshop.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. John Kennedy Toole Writings.

3 items.

Typescript copies of John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius Reilly and The Neon Bible.

Folder 26-30

Folder 26

Folder 27

Folder 28

Folder 29

Folder 30

Ignatius Reilly, 1977 #05315, Series: "3. John Kennedy Toole Writings." Folder 26-30

A 480-page typescript of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces with the alternate title Ignatius Reilly.

Folder 31-32

Folder 31

Folder 32

The Neon Bible #05315, Series: "3. John Kennedy Toole Writings." Folder 31-32

Two typescripts of John Kennedy Toole's first novel, The Neon Bible .

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Photographs and Negatives, circa 1950-1980.

15 items.

Photographs and negatives of John Kennedy Toole, Thelma Toole, and Rhoda K. Faust.

Image Folder P-5315/1

Photographs and negatives, circa 1950-1980 #05315, Series: "4. Photographs and Negatives, circa 1950-1980." P-5315/1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. Audiocassettes and Videotapes, 1985-2000.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 6. Other Materials, 1925-1958.

4 items.

Items given to Rhoda Faust by Thelma Toole include a large Tulane University mug belonging to John Kennedy Toole dated 1958 and inscribed with the name "Ken," two small coffee mugs owned by Toole featuring images of birds, and a 1925 medal presented to Thelma Toole by the Southern Association Amateur Athletic Union in recognition of her performance in the 220 yard relay and 60 yard hurdles.

Box 5

Other Materials, 1925-1958 #05315, Series: "6. Other Materials, 1925-1958." Box 5

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Processing Information

Processed by: Noah Huffman, March 2007

Encoded by: Noah Huffman, March 2007

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