JKT’s Library


This is not a picture of JKT’s library. Image taken from The BookCase Project

There is much you can learn about a person from the books they own. If you ask me over to your house don’t be surprised if I spend considerable time staring at your bookshelves. And if all you have is an e-reader and you smugly declare books are passé—please do not invite me to your home.

One way I came to better understand John Kennedy Toole (who left no journal behind and only a handful of letters) was by reading the books on his shelf at the time of his death. In Butterfly in the Typewriter, I reference many of them, but I did not include the list of titles. I promised Spencer Throssell (@Spencaurus) this morning I would post it.

Below you will find the titles that appear on a document composed by New Orleans bookseller Rhoda Faust. She founded the famous Maple Street Book Shop. She was also close to Walker Percy, and through him became a friend to Thelma Toole, who offered Faust her son’s books to sell in her store. Eventually, Thelma and Rhoda had a falling out over the rights to publish JKT’s first novel The Neon Bible. But before that happened, lucky buyers picked apart and purchased JKT’s library.

So friends, if you recognize these titles and years listed, check your shelves. You may find some of Toole’s marginalia and he usually inscribed the books with his name and address.

Before I get to the long list let me first point out some important books that do not appear on Faust’s inventory, one’s that I know Toole read. These are, in no particular order:

A collection of Harvard Classics (gifted to Joel Fletcher but unfortunately ruined by water damage)

A collection of Children’s Books (recently sold at auction through Sotheby’s. University of Louisiana at Lafayette now owns them)

Many Evelyn Waugh novels, particularly the early comical ones.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (Toole frantically requested his mother send this to him in Puerto Rico)

Stern by Bruce Jay Friedman (Toole told Robert Gottlieb how Stern profoundly impacted him)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac (his copy of this book is in the Toole Papers. He picked this up while at Columbia University 1958-1959)

Superworm by George Deaux


Rhoda Faust’s catalog appears as such:

Approach to Literature (1964) by Cleanth Brooks

Queen Elizabeth (Knopf, 1929) by Katherine Anthony

Archy and Mehitabel (DD, 1955) by don Marquis

Elizabethan World Picture (1956) by EMW Tillyard

The Group (1963) by Mary McCarthy

The Political Works of Edmund Spencer (1921) by Edmund Spencer

Romantic and Victorian Poetry (1954) Ed. by William Frost

All the King’s Men (1953) by Robert Penn Warren

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (1958) by W.B. Yeats

The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy

One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding (1961) by Robert Gover

A Thirsty Evil (1958) by Gore Vidal

Finnegans Wake (1959) by James Joyce

Goodbye to All That (1957) by Robert Graves

Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Pragmatism and American Culture: Problems in American Culture (1950) Ed. by Gail Kennedy

The Big Change (1961) by Frederick Lewis Allen

Inquest (1966) by Edward Jay Epstein

Selected Poetry (1950) by William Wordsworth

The Young American Writers (1967) by Richard Costelanety

Viking Portable American Lit. Survey (1968) Ed. by Stein & Gross

Selected Poetry & Prose (1951) by Samuel T. Coleridge

To an Early Grave (1964) by Wallace Markfield

The Humanization of Eddie Cement (1964) by George Deaux

A Mother’s Kisses (1964) by Bruce Jay Friedman

The Poetical Works (1933) by Chaucer

Ulysses (1946) by James Joyce

By the way—if you like looking at overflowing bookshelves and interesting ways to display books, check out The BookCase Project on Facebook.


Filed under john kennedy toole

2 responses to “JKT’s Library

  1. That’s great! Yes–Mary Dichmann was rather imposing–guess you had to be to head that group of “fiends and madmen.” I definitely think he was emboldened while in Lafayette. And Dichmann’s blind devotion to alumni from Tulane convinced him he would never be caught. Plus, if I remember correctly, I don’t think Dichmann was part of the department social circle. So I’m not sure if she fully realized the boundlessness of his mimicry.

    Perhaps your cousin also know Maurice duQuesnay? Some folks in Lafayette think he was the model for Ignatius, but I don’t think. He was pretty skinny when Ken was around. I sat down with him last October. He had some wonderful memories from the days of Ken–and also recollections of decades when Thelma visited triumphantly, the novel in hand.

    Thanks for sharing your story–and discussing the book with your cousin!

  2. Love seeing this – and I totally agree with you on learning about people from their bookshelves. I admit I like to look at people’s book collections not only to see what books they have, but to be nosy and look for those books that are the “skeletons on the bookshelf.”
    On another note, while telling my cousin about Butterfly, and showing her the book, she was pleasantly surprised to see Mary Deichman(sp?) in the pictures during JKT’s days in Lafayette. Ms. Deichman had been a good friend of my cousin’s aunt with whom I’m also well acquainted (she’s still living – 90 something). When I told her your account of Toole poking gentle fun at Mary, aka the “Frito” incident, my cousin remarked, “Oh, no! That would be like playing a joke on Aunt Mignon – NOT GOOD!” The expression on her face transmitted true concern. Then she pointed Ms Deichman out in the picture and said, “Look. The woman was built like a linebacker. He must have been brave.”

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