Wednesday, March 14, 2012


The saga of John Kennedy Toole is one of the greatest stories of American literary history. After writing “A Confederacy of Dunces,” Toole corresponded with Robert Gottlieb of Simon & Schuster for two years. Exhausted from Gottlieb’s suggested revisions, Toole declared the publication of the manuscript hopeless and stored it in a box. Years later he suffered a mental breakdown, took a two-month journey across the United States, and finally committed suicide on an inconspicuous road outside of Biloxi. Following the funeral, Toole’s mother discovered the manuscript. After many rejections, she cornered Walker Percy, who found it a brilliant novel and spearheaded its publication. In 1981, 12 years after the author’s death, “A Confederacy of Dunces” won the Pulitzer Prize.

In “Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of a Confederacy of Dunces," Germanna Community College English Department Chair Cory MacLauchlin draws on scores of new interviews with friends, family, and colleagues as well as full access to the extensive Toole archive at Tulane University, capturing his upbringing in New Orleans, his years in New York City, his frenzy of writing in Puerto Rico, his return to his beloved city, and his descent into paranoia and depression. The book will be released by De Capo Press on March 27, 2012.

There will be a signing at The Griffin in downtown Fredericksburg on from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 31.

“There wasn’t an adequate biography,” MacLauchlin, who lives in Bristow with his wife and children, said. “I found myself wanting to know more and to tell a fair story about his life, which hadn’t been done yet, as many of his friends I’ve interviewed would attest.
"A Confederacy of Dunces," MacLauchlin said, is "a hilarious book. It’s the quintessential New Orleans novel. Toole was the only native New Orleansian to write a successful book about New Orleans and somehow capture its spirit.”

MacLauchlin said that when publishers kept saying no, Toole “fell into a deep depression and suffered from paranoia that people were after him. He beleieved his work had been stolen and had been published under another name.

“The pressures in his home were very intense. His mother was a very dominant personality and his father quite weak—physically and mentally ill… His freedom was his novel. When he couldn’t revise it and to satisfy Simon and Schuster, he put it away and found himself lost in a world he couldn’t get out of.”

Toole took most of his money out of the bank and hit the road for two months,” MacLauchlin said. “On the way back home, a few miles outside of New Orleans, in Biloxi, he decided to attach a garden host to his exhaust pipe and take his own life.”

“She finally cornered a publisher and forced him to read it. He sent a note saying ‘It’s a genius work’--nothing had captured the spirit of that city as well.”

Fredericksburg resident Joel Fletcher had written an earlier book about Toole and his mother titled "Ken & Thelma."

Press release combines De Capo and Germanna information.


No comments: