§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Complete Stories of Truman Capote

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote

I had not read much of Capote even though he’s really been a “household name” for quite a long time. I’ve not even read In Cold Blood—so this book was a huge, but pleasant surprise for me. What a delightful writer!

The stories date from 1945 to 1982 and seem to have two settings: the halls of the rich (and those who realize they are not rich) in New York (which remind me a bit of Fitzgerald) and the rural, sort-of-Gothic South (which remind me of Carson McCullers). But no one can accuse Capote of retilling the soil of other writers. There's an empathy for the not rich that he didn't get from Fitzgerald and a tight control of strong emotion in his southern stories that is unlike any other Southern Gothic writer.

My favorites were the three holiday stories narrated by Buddy, undoubtedly a Capote alter ego, and focusing on his best friends, the 60-ish cousin, Sook, who, it’s implied, is a bit “simple” and Queenie, the dog. The depth of feeling which Capote finds in these stories is completely without sentimentality. The writing is clear as a bell, never strains for effect, and the feelings shine through loud and clear. Here’s a sample from the first story, “A Christmas Memory”:

When it comes time for making each other’s gifts, my friend and I separate to work secretly. I would like to buy her a pear-handled knife, a radio, a whole pound of chocolate-covered cherries (we tasted some once, and she always swears: “I could live on them, Buddy, Lord yes I could—and that’s not taking His name in vain”). Instead, I am building her a kite. She would like to give me a bicycle (she’s said so on several occasions: “If only I could, Buddy. It’s bad enough in life to do without something you want; but confound it, what gets my goat is not being able to give somebody something you want them to have. Only one of these days I will Buddy. Locate you a bike. Don’t ask how. Steal it, maybe”). Instead, I’m fairly certain that she is building me a kite—the same as last year, and the year before: the year before that we exchanged slingshots.

In the last story, Buddy visits his father in New Orleans; Sook encourages him to consider the possibility of snow at Christmas in compensation for missing out on their private holiday rituals. There’s no snow and it’s not an entirely successful visit, but Buddy writes him a thank you note on a penny postcard and years later, after his father’s death, he finds the card in his father’s safety deposit box.

I saw the film of Breakfast at Tiffany’s not long ago and realized I’d never read Capote’s story. You can be sure I’ll be reading more of him soon.

Now, can you tell me why they changed the picture of Capote from this one that appears on the hardback version of the book? (A friend says he looks like James Dean.)


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