There have been a couple of books written about John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces — one a charming personal reminiscence, the other unworthy of its subject — but we now have Cory MacLauchlin's Butterfly in the Typewriter, which is the first serious biography of Toole.
MacLauchlin was a guest at last weekend's Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, and he'll be holding booksignings and readings for the next couple of nights in New Orleans (see below), but this morning he posted a fascinating essay on the booklovers' site The Millions, detailing his quest for the grail — the original manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces, which had disappeared in the years since the book's publication:
I had nearly given up on the question of the original manuscript until a year ago when I interviewed Lynda Martin, the sister of Toole’s best friend in high school. “The manuscript?” she said in a soft southern accent. “Yes, well I have it in my closet here at home.” I nearly dropped the phone as she explained Toole’s mother had given it as a gift to her brother after the novel was published. When her brother passed away in 2008, she acquired it. It had a few penned-in edits, she explained, but not drastic revisions. “I don’t know what to do with it, really,” she said. “I considered selling it at auction.” Christie’s estimated its value up to $20,000, if deemed authentic. She hadn’t called Sotheby’s yet. “Please,” I begged, “just hold on to it. I’m on my way down.”
Yes, there's more to the story. Maybe MacLauchlin will tell it tonight.
CORY MCLAUCHLIN SIGNS BUTTERFLY IN THE TYPEWRITER
March 26, 5:30 pm
Garden District Book Shop , 2727 Prytania St.
March 27, 6 pm
Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St.