Monday, March 26, 2012

A Confederacy of Dunces: in search of the manuscript

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 3:12 PM

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.


March 26, 5:30 pm
Garden District Book Shop , 2727 Prytania St.

March 27, 6 pm
Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St.

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