Billy Bob Thornton’s evolution from the guy from Slingblade into a regular guy might be the most impressive achievement of his autobiography. It takes a lot for a poor scamp like myself to identify with and relate to a well-known millionaire.
Any biography of John Kennedy Toole not only has to tell the story of his life; it has to correct the legend. It also ought to show how A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES draws on Toole's life, and how it doesn't. Cory MacLauchlin's new biography, BUTTERFLY IN THE TYPEWRITER, does all of the above. The man who emerges is not a tortured artist but an urbane and funny person, a quick mimic, a good dancer, and (until things reached their worst) an engaging teacher.
He cut his own hair. In warm weather, he’d bathe in the creek behind his house. He hunted ginseng in the woods when the season was right. He tended a vegetable garden that grew tomatoes, squash, okra, carrots, and onions. He smoked Marlboros. He sometimes wrote in a tree house on his property. Women loved him. They wanted to take care of him, to fatten him up.
Barry Hannah died on March 1, 2010. Born in Meridian, Mississippi, he was the author of Airships, Ray, Bats Out of Hell, High Lonesome, among many other novels and story collections. A teacher and mentor, Hannah taught creative writing for nearly thirty years at the University of Mississippi. He was a longtime contributor to The Oxford American; his short story “The Spy of Loog Root” appeared in the first issue of the magazine in 1992. Here, students, fans, and friends reflect on Hannah and his work. For more, see Issue #72 of the magazine.