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The Neon Bible

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  4,755 Ratings  ·  365 Reviews
The Neon Bible tells the story of David, a young boy growing up in a small Southern town in the 1940s. David's voice is perfectly calibrated, disarmingly funny, sad, shrewd, gathering force from page to page with an emotional directness that never lapses into sentimentality. Through it we share his awkward, painful, universally recognizable encounter with first love, we pa ...more
Paperback, 162 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1989)
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Feb 04, 2015 Fabian rated it it was amazing
Yeah, I've placed this on the back-burnera several times before. Why? Since "Confederacy" takes up such a large portion of my heart, my soul, I absolutely knew in my bones that this, Toole's first effort into novel-writing (& the only other one-- he wrote solely TWO), would suck. Of course it would. And the beginning trembles, and the plot is thin, and the observations somewhat... pedestrian? But it is nonetheless exactly what John Kennedy Toole fans like myself would die for: testament of e ...more
Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy
Oct 29, 2016 Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers who enjoyed "Stoner"
Bittersweet Sixteen

It would be a significant literary achievement to write a convincing novel from the perspective of a sixteen year old narrator. It would be an even greater achievement, as here, if the author too was sixteen years old.

This novel is relatively straightforward in the way it unravels the plot. It's conventional and linear, until at the end you discover that it's actually circular. However, like "Stoner", one thing it does well is create pathos, although in this case there is no
Sep 10, 2012 Tfitoby rated it it was ok
Shelves: lit
I really wanted to like this, I really don't want to criticise the writing of the teenage John Kennedy Toole, but the fact is that this is a book that was only published because of greed. It could have used an editor but mostly it could have used not being written by a 16 year old. He was clearly a very talented young man, his writing is beyond anything I can imagine a 16 year old writing today lololololjkjkjkjkjk but still this reads as though written by a naive boy.

Neon Bible has been compared
Da pena pensar dónde podría haber llegado John Kennedy Toole de no haberse suicidado a tan temprana edad. Sin lugar a dudas era un genio. 'La Biblia de neón' fue la primera novela que escribió, siendo apenas un adolescente, y sólo puedo decir que es una obra con fuerza, con imágenes indelebles que permanecen a fuego en la memoria tras varias horas después de su lectura.

Toole nos cuenta la historia de David y de su familia en un pueblo sureño de Estados Unidos, cuya población, o la mayor parte de
Jan 09, 2017 Sub_zero rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2017
La Biblia de neón dista mucho de ser la obra maestra que es La conjura de los necios, pero sí que ofrece pistas del apabullante potencial que tenía John Kennedy Toole como narrador. El escritor norteamericano ofrece en esta novela, la primera que escribió siendo apenas un adolescente, un retrato brutal del fanatismo religioso como elemento de dominación a través de la mirada inocente e ingenua de un niño criado en el seno de una familia humilde y un tanto excéntrica. Sus observaciones y experien ...more
Jan 20, 2011 bobbygw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Toole committed suicide at the age of 32, leaving behind two unpublished novels and an impressively determined mother who succeeded – after much badgering – in gaining the novelist Walker Percy’s interest and support in the manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces. As we know, this was then published to instant and great acclaim and has been continuously in print ever since, and translated into numerous languages.

While The Neon Bible was in fact written before A Confederacy of Dunces, it only came
Sep 23, 2007 Núria rated it it was amazing
Se ve que John Kennedy Toole escribió 'La Biblia de neón' cuando tenía 16 años y que luego la rechazó porque el estilo le parecía demasiado juvenil. Pero a mí me ha encantado, precisamente por esa mirada infantil e ingenua que tiene. Como todo está narrado precisamente desde el punto de vista de un niño que luego se convertirá en adolescente, que encima siempre ha recibido una educación muy rudimentaria y que siempre ha vivido aislado, el estilo simple, directo, repetitivo y algo limitado funcio ...more
Noran Miss Pumkin
Mar 14, 2008 Noran Miss Pumkin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults only
Recommended to Noran by: JEF
The first lines of this book were so vivid for be, I could see exactly what the author wrote. I just kept re-reading them.
It is such a powerful book, I often recommend highly to others. It was made into a film in the last decade, but got little play and lesser reviews. If you like "Ironweed", this is your cup of joe.
Edith Wasco
Apr 23, 2013 Edith Wasco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Edith by: Carmina Warden
La historia me llamó la atención desde la reseña de la parte de atrás y al comenzar a leerlo no me decepcionó. El pueblo que Toole describe se me antojo casi real. Más que el estilo de la prosa (bueno a secas), resalta el tema de la obra y la crítica social que hace al fanatismo religioso dominante en los pequeños pueblos estadounidenses antes y durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Me dejó pasmada el hecho de que fue escrita cuando Toole tenía apenas 16 años. La juventud del escritor y lo corto de ...more
Evan Leach
This was a solid to good coming-of-age story written by John Kennedy Toole at the age of 16. Toole is better known for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, his only other published work. Neon Bible is a piece of juvenilia that only saw the light of day due to the smashing success of Dunces, and was written by a raw and developing talent. There is room for Toole to grow as a writer across the board (plotting, characterization, prose, etc.). That said, this is an extremely imp ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Zahir rated it really liked it
For those of you who were fans of A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole's other posthumously published work is a very different, but equally brilliant, work. Where Confederacy really shines through as a comic masterpiece with larger than life characters, The Neon Bible is a serious story told in some of the most emotional language I've ever seen come across a printed page. Where Confederacy is all about the farcical nature of human being, in The Neon Bible, Toole captures human emotion in an almost pur ...more
Ashley Bradley
Apr 26, 2010 Ashley Bradley rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most surprising books I have ever read. Though I was already aware of Toole's genius, because of Confederacy of Dunces, I went into it wondering just how great it could be. He wrote this story when he was 16, and I thought the only reason it was published was because of his Mother's struggle to get it published. They say you aren't fully appreciated until your gone. In the introduction of this book, a family friend of Toole's mother discusses how the two found the story shorty ...more
Jun 21, 2011 Pat rated it really liked it
This was honestly hard for me to read at times. I abandoned it the first time I tried to read it, about 6 years ago. It just oozes sadness and it can get to be a bit unbearable at times, but after I got into the heart of the book this second time I started reading it, I also found it to be really compelling and it really drew me into this world. The young boy telling the story uses perfectly believable language to describe his world in clear detail. I've found that books with a young narrator ca ...more
Ovidiu Oprea
Dec 14, 2010 Ovidiu Oprea rated it really liked it
I found the book very easy to read and each page seemed to promise something new and appealing. I intended to specify that it's easy to read because I was thinking of all the vampire novels people are reading because they want something easy, that flows and all that, and of this article about the issue:

This is a novel that you can finish reading pretty quickly. Yet, I suspect that people that go for Dan Brown and co. do it not for the unsophisticated phr
Brandon Henke
Apr 12, 2015 Brandon Henke rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Win Butler swears that Arcade Fire's album and title track of the same name are of no relation, but they are so close in subject matter and tone that I am skeptical of the claim.

The Neon Bible is an immensely sad book and, having also read The Confederacy of Dunces, leads me to believe that there are whispers of autobiographical confession in its pages. The understated emotion of a young boy trying to make sense of the absurdities and hypocrisy that surround him.

Jul 16, 2008 Bobby rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Canadian indie rock bands
Shelves: 2008
Clean. Concise. Haunting. This book stays with you. A fantastic novel, made all the more so taking into account the age of the writer. Written with more honesty and emotion than many writers twice his age are capable of. Even discounting Conspiracy of Dunces, this book alone makes Toole's eventual suicide all the more tragic. One of the biggest losses of potential in modern American literature.
Long before A Confederacy of Dunces, a young John Kennedy Toole wrote an at-times quite lovely, chilly novel about sub-Mason-Dixon desperation in the O'Connor/Porter/McCullers mode. It doesn't go much of anywhere -- after all, Toole was a teenager when he wrote it -- but it's not awful. It reminds me, rather, of how I used to think and write as an adolescent, which is to say that I wanted to write frigid, minimalist stories about my own regional turf that acted as panegyrics against the hypocris ...more
Gregory Baird
Apr 18, 2008 Gregory Baird rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of "A Confederacy of Dunces"
“Thinking people feel sorry for you is something I guess you should appreciate, but I didn’t and never have."

First of all, for anyone to have written a novel like this at age sixteen is nothing short of amazing. Granted, some of the description does not entirely ring true, but for a teenager to possess such acuity when it comes to people and society is remarkable. John Kennedy Toole was such a gifted observer of humanity’s foibles despite his young age that “The Neon Bible” contains truths and
Chad Bearden
Oct 19, 2009 Chad Bearden rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"The Neon Bible" is a remarkable work in many respects, most notably because it is the early work of an author still in the embryonic stages of becoming a writer, and while it bears almost no tonal or stylistic resemblence to the work that would make Toole famous, it is still a quite solid read.

Whereas "A Confederacy of Dunces" seemed almost hyper-obnoxious with its lead character, Ignatius Reilly, as its figurehead, "The Neon Bible" is a marathon of calm observation. In the former, Toole channe
Jan 14, 2017 Joni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
La otra novela del creador de La conjura de los necios, John Kennedy Toole, un escritor que con apenas un legado de dos libros deja una marca particular. Escrita a los quince años se advierten elementos que varios años después usaría en su otra obra. Comienza con un joven viajando en tren que recuerda su vida en un pequeño pueblo conservador del sur estadounidense. Siendo hijo único y de familia muy pobre convive con sus padres y la inefable tía Mae, gran personaje que casi se vuelve central. Na ...more
Jacqueline Perez
Nov 04, 2016 Jacqueline Perez rated it really liked it
"A Confederacy of Dunces" is a masterpiece by John Kennedy Toole, which masterpiece should have been published before his death. The fact that it wasn't published is a testament to the tone deafness of the publishers in his day. According to Kenneth Holditch's introduction to "The Neon Bible" ((1989 W. Kenneth Holditch, Marion Toole Hosli, Sharon H. Muniz, Althea Toole Farley, and Mary Toole McGuire) Published by Grove Weidenfeld, 1989.), Toole's second posthumously published work, Toole's hopes ...more
E. D.  Watson
Feb 04, 2017 E. D. Watson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booklab
Toole's Confederacy of Dunces is one of my favorite books of all time...but for some reason I'd never read this one. I LOVED IT. You won't get the rollicking, satirical, character-stuffed experience of COD--The Neon Bible is a much quieter book, spacious and spare and cruel and tender, a Southern Gothic masterpiece. If you like Carson McCullers and Kaye Gibbons (and I do, so much!) then you'll love this book.
Aug 29, 2011 David added it
The neon bible by john Kennedy toole

I would like to comment on the composition o f the book written in the opposite
Of the colour metaphors that are used in the scripts of movies & TV series
It mentioned the book …TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD...
I love the crispness of the characters the clarity of the grammar I could recall my fav parts of the book ( the neon bible) but, then that would be reciteting and not reviewing ..My other favotite was A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN pre 1920 a another story of
Apr 16, 2012 Howard added it
I happened on this book in the library recently. The author's story intrigued me, so I checked it out. Toole wrote only one published work and then took his own life at the young age of 31. "The Neon Bible" was published posthumously. Strikingly, it was written when he was only 16. That alone makes it a compelling read. How such a young boy could grasp such depth of feeling!

It's a short read and I was drawn along easily. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that there is much food for thoug
Michael Scott
Jan 23, 2009 Michael Scott rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This was a strange read: on the one hand, a story that does not move until the very end, on the other, glimpses of fine writing and intense feeling. In the end, the glimpses were too few and far between, so I can't say I enjoyed (much) this book; the difference between the writing of the sixteen year-old John Kennedy Toole and the mature and wonderful A Confederacy of Dunces (a five-star) was just too big.
Jul 26, 2011 Robert rated it it was amazing

John Kennedy Toole's first novel (published posthumously) is not too dissimilar from today's YA novels: A boy disillusioned with society, tries to escape it but it never happens.

It is a depressing book and yet so powerful. Don't forget that Toole was 16 when he wrote this and it is precocious. However it is definitely a sign of his talents as a writer and his ability to be viciously satirical. Later on when Toole wrote A Confederacy of Dunces he developed a funny bone and that suited him more b
Maribel González
Jan 15, 2017 Maribel González rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
La conjura de los necios no me convenció y pensaba que me iba a ocurrir lo mismo, pero La biblia de Neón ha sido una sorpresa. Este libro, escrito por un John Kennedy Toole de 15 años, está muy bien escrito. El autor describe una época que vivió y refleja su visión diferente. Además, consigue que te pongas en la piel del protagonista, ya sea de niño o de adolescente. Quizás le dé otra oportunidad a La conjura.
May 19, 2016 Adenjul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adenjul by: I borrowed it from the library.
The narrative was interesting, albeit fast-paced, with several formative years of a life packed into less than 200 pages. The characterization was good and the town and its people fleshed out. The ending was uncharacteristic and abrupt and the book ended just when the story seemed like it was about to begin. The biggest flaws were the simplistic writing and the fact that the narrator's tone never changed, whether he was 9 years old or 19 years old.
Octavio Villalpando
Apr 27, 2013 Octavio Villalpando rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Todo mundo!
Recommended to Octavio by: Edith Wasco, Amanda Porter
¡Vaya novela tan impresionante! Es difícil pensar que el autor tenía tan solo 16 años cuando la escribió, porque la narración es la de un alma muy vieja, muy vieja y cansada... el mejor reflejo de la historia del autor (tengan la amabilidad de buscar datos de su vida para que lo entiendan). He de leer su otra novela, también de publicación póstuma... es una pena que no haya vivido mucho más, pero supongo que ya había vivido demasiado!
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John Kennedy Toole was an American novelist from New Orleans, Louisiana, best known for his novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

Toole's novels remained unpublished during his lifetime. Some years after his death by suicide, Toole's mother brought the manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces to the attention of the novelist Walker Percy, who ushered the book into print. In 1981 Toole was posthumously awarde
More about John Kennedy Toole...

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“But I knew the way the people in the town thought about things. They always had some time left over from their life to bother about other people and what they did. They thought they had to get together to help other people out, like the time they got together about the woman who let a colored man borrow her car and told her the best place for her was up north with all the other nigger lovers, and the time they got the veterans with overseas wives out. If you were different from anybody in town, you had to get out. That's why everybody was so much alike. The way they talked, what they did, what they liked, what they hated. If somebody got to hate something and he was the right person, everybody had to hate it too, or people began to hate the ones who didn't hate it. They used to tell us in school to think for yourself, but you couldn't do that in the town. You had to think what your father thought all his life, and that was what everybody thought.” 14 likes
“I was getting tired about what the preacher called Christian. Anything he did was Christian, and the people in his church believed it, too. If he stole some book he didn't like from the library, or made the radio station play only part of the day on Sunday, or took somebody off to the state poor home, he called it Christian. I never had much religious training, and I never went to Sunday school because we didn't belong to the church when I was old enough to go, but I thought I knew what believing in Christ meant, and it wasn't half the things the preacher did.” 13 likes
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