By Cory MacLauchlin
Da Capo Press, $26.00, 300 pages
For fans of the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, author Cory MacLauchlin’s new book Butterfly in the Typewriter is a must read. MacLauchlin presents a well researched and thoughtful account of what little is really known about the life and death of Toole, a very private man. While in the Army, stationed at Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico, Toole wrote his future Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It became the second work of fiction to be awarded the honor posthumously. Through interviews with close friends and colleagues, MacLauchlin was able to penetrate the inner circle of Toole’s academic world to discover that dark secrets haunt even those who exhibit a very different public persona. Toole’s outrageous sense of humor and his impersonations of those around him kept his friends in stitches and crying with laughter. However, paranoia over the rejection of his manuscript consumed Toole in the final months of his life. This experience was obviously too much to overcome and lead to his early demise. MacLauchlin addresses lingering questions about Toole’s life, such as the intrigue surrounding his sexuality, the reasoning behind his final journey and his mysterious suicide. One wonders whether his upbringing by a domineering mother or the familial duty he felt to support his parents led to his lack of female relationship. Little is lacking in the Butterfly in the Typewriter. After all, it is not solely about the conception of A Confederacy of Dunces. Reading this book will make fans want to revisit Toole’s masterpiece.
Reviewed by Kathleen Godwin