I just finished the chapter on 1963 (chapter 10), which was a turning point in Toole’s life. In January of 1963 he returned to Fort Buchanan, PR from a holiday trip to New Orleans and decided to begin writing Confederacy.
In May of 1963, his writing was going so well he decided to move back to New Orleans. In the chapter I explore his experience writing the book, some of the literary influences he gathered in Puerto Rico, and his eventual decision to move back home. It is a great deal of content to cover, but all of it very important to understanding Toole. It was this year in his life that gave us Confederacy, although his decision to return home was an ill-fated one.
As I struggled through this chapter, I recieved some sad news from Lafayette, LA. One of Toole’s closest friends, a woman he loved dearly, has become quite ill.
I spent a few hours with her at her house in April. She served me coffee and cookies and we talked about Toole, art, teaching, politics and humanity. She made me promise to teach the stories of her friend Ernest J. Gaines in my next Southern Literature Course. I agreed.
I showed her photos of Toole, many of which she had never seen. She looked at his Army pictures as if he were a stranger; she never saw him in a uniform. Then I showed her my favorite picture, Toole sitting at a table with a genuine smile that looks like he could erupt into laughter at any moment. She pointed to it and said, “Yes, that’s the Ken I remember. He looked just like that.”
Then she showed me her paintings and a beautiful pink rose she had picked; it was to be the subject of her next watercolor.
It was a lovely morning in the heart of Cajun country.