The Pulitzer Prize board pissed off plenty of booksellers earlier this month when it declined to name a fiction winner. But the board adhered to one tradition by continuing its three-decade run of snubbing comic novels: The last such book to win was John Kennedy Toole’s rambunctious New Orleans picaresque, A Confederacy of Dunces. As Cory MacLauchlin explains in his Toole biography, Butterfly in the Typewriter, the author’s experience with the novel was as embittering as the book itself was funny. After feverishly writing Confederacy while stationed in Puerto Rico with the Army in 1963, Toole caught the interest of legendary editor Robert Gottlieb, but demanding edits and personal demons sank the book as well as Toole, who killed himself in 1969 at age 31. Toole’s mother doggedly pursued his book’s publication, which earned that Pulitzer in 1981, and MacLauchlin’s version of this tragicomic tale captures both Toole’s smarts and sense of humor.
MacLauchlin discusses his book at 2 p.m. at One More Page Books, 2200 N. Westmoreland St., No. 101. Free. onemorepagebooks.com. (703) 300-9746.