Friday, December 07, 2007

What happened to Truman Capote ???

Excerpts from an article by Jane Smiley:

"What new can one say about Truman Capote anyway? He said much of what there was to say himself -- in fact, about three-fifths of the way through newly released "Portraits and Observations," in an introductory essay to a volume of his early work, Capote gives himself a review: "But something like 'A House on the Heights,' where all the movement depends on the writing itself, is a matter of how the sentences sound, suspend, balance and tumble; a piece like that can be red hell, which is why I have more affection for it than 'A Ride Through Spain,' even though I know the latter is better, or at least more effective." And then, at the end, he gives himself a very bad review: "Again and again I read all that I had written of 'Answered Prayers,' and I began to have doubts -- not about the material or my approach, but about the texture of the writing itself." His doubts did not go away, though he changed his approach again, and then again. At the time of his death, Capote still had not done what he wanted to do, and so we may, I think, wonder whether he died considering himself a failure.

By the evidence of this volume (arranged chronologically), far from it. Every piece is a treasure of effects, and over the whole 500-plus pages and 38 years, the effects hold together and speak back and forth to one another. The result is a visible evolution and a telling portrait of what happened to Truman Capote -- not to his life but to his aesthetic, with his life as a frequently fascinating background.

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