Monday, April 23, 2012

Remembering Doris Betts

I was shocked to read this morning that North Carolina author Doris Betts passed away on Saturday. She was 79 and had lung cancer. The last book I read of hers was Souls Raised from the Dead, her 7th novel and winner of the Southern Book Award in 1995. I really enjoyed that and Beasts of the Southern Wild, her 1998 collection of short stories that contains her award-winning story, "The Ugliest Pilgrim."

Here's an article that talks a little about her life, but I'm sure much more will be published about her in the days and weeks to come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New biography on John Kennedy Toole

Even if you've never read A Confederacy of Dunces, you may have heard the unusual back story behind its publication... The author, John Kennedy Toole, committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31. His mother, Thelma Toole, convinced of her son's genius, struggled for years to get his manuscript published. It was, finally, in 1980 with the help of fellow Southern author Walker Percy, and a year later won the Pulitzer Prize.

Now, Cory Mac-Lauchlin has written a biography describing the life of New Orleans author Toole entitled Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces. Kevin Allman has written a great review of the biography. Check it out, and if you haven't yet read A Confederacy of Dunces, you should -- it's bizarre, Southern Gothic, grotesque, and inspiring (more so because of the back story) in a weird way.