I've picked up a copy and plan to start reading it tonight. I've heard this is the book that destroyed his career. What should I expect?
It's written like a Blind Item so a familiarity of his social group is necessary before you start.
It didn't destroy his career. It destroyed him socially among the American jet set crowd. That was a big blow to him, although he should have seen it coming. On top of that the work wasn't well received because it wasn't very good.
Is this the one about the Ann and Billy Woodward? Wait, that was Two Mrs Greenvilles or whatever.
He over-sold it and couldn't live up to the hype. It should have just been a novella-a-clef of gossip he overheard.
But he is my favorite author.
The book itself was never written. The fragment that was set in Cote Basque was indeed about the Woodwards. When it appeared in Esquire, she committed suicide.
It's interesting the way Capote rather viciously goes after the Ann Woodward character for, among other things, being a low-rent social climber. Did he miss the connection with his own modest beginnings?
There's nothing clever or perceptive in his account: it's just a porn-y cartoon fantasy of how rich people conduct their lives. I'd guess that by this point in his career alcohol or drugs or disappointment had pretty much eradicated his talent.
He never got close to finishing it.
Alcoholism and perhaps additional substances finished his career. Without drink he would have had the guts and the clear headed abitlity to finish Anwered Prayers and stand up to the silly tongue wagging and rebuffs he received when he published some of it in Esquire.
In Cold Blood of course is an example of what he could really do. Even then, he was in trouble with alcohol. He died at about 58, liver failure among other things. He pretty much was gone mentally as well. Very sad cautionary tale in my opinion.
read Gerald Clarke's bio of Capote.
he was already bored silly with the jet set when he published that excerpt. the crush had worn off.
Clarke suggest that on some half-conscious level he wanted to make a break from them, but couldnt do it directly so brought it about through self-sabotage.
all his life he'd dreamed of leaving his country bumpkin world and entering the world of the beautiful rich people. then the door to paradise finally opened and he was quickly disillusioned since most of these people were boring idiots.
i think Answered Prayers could have been great if he'd had the self-discipline. he had all the material - insider knowledge - for a great book, a ruthless expose. but he wanted to be the American Proust and he just didnt have it in him. his talent was for short fiction, he should never have tried to compete with the author of one of the longest novels ever written. he should have taken someone like Balzac for a model (gossipy, fast-paced, and melodramatic page-turners), not Proust (the highest highbrow of all highbrows).
At least no one has suggested that Harper Lee wrote this mess for him. It seems pretty clear that she researched and structured In Cold Blood, just as he styled To Kill a Mockingbird for her. Neither wrote anything on that scale without the other.
Supposedly what destroyed his career was the ordeal of writing "In Cold Blood." He never recovered from the years it took to complete that book, all those years waiting for the final outcome of the story. His friendship with Perry Smith also played a part; he was devastated by Smith's execution.
Clarke's book said that he was crushed when all of his high society friends dumped him after "Le Cote Basque." Incredibly, he wondered why they had such a negative reaction to his thinly veiled, unflattering portrayals: "But they know I'm a writer. I don't understand it." Clarke wrote "only obstinate self-deception could explain the astonishment and dismay with which Truman now watched the reversal of his fortunes after "Le Cote Basque."
His decline was sad. He was on some talk show, pitifully drunk or doped up. Such a talented writer, such an amusing person...and he ended up dying a lonely death while staying at somebody else's house (Joanna Carson's) without having done any good writing for many years.
At the age of 52, he contemplated suicide. Clarke's book claims that he said:
"Every morning I wake up and in 2 minutes I'm weeping. I just cry and cry. And every night the same thing happens. I take a pill, I start to write or reread something I've written, and suddenly I start to cry. There's just so much pain somebody can endure. How can I carry it around all the time? The pain is not about any one thing: it's about a lot of things. I'm so unhappy. I just have to come to terms with something. Ther is something wrong. I don't know what it is, and I don't think any of those jerky analysts know either."
Meh, who cares about his lousy social life after the article? The real story in Clarke's biography is Truman meeting a very hung Irish married guy in a sauna somewhere and having a relationship with him through thick and very thin. The guy treated him like shit and they fought and broke up and got back together numerous times. Truman even made nice with the guy's wife and kids and made their lives a lot easier. He also continued his partnership with his longtime lover throughout all of this drama. (Although by this time, they were more or less just good friends who lived next door to each other. Truman bought both houses.)
Truman would get drunk and brag about how big this married guy's cock was to all and sundry. One night at a party, the guy got very drunk and went wandering off after a fight with Truman. Truman went looking for him and found him passed out in some bushes. Truman went back to the party and told the guests to come with him. He brought them to where the guy was sleeping and proceeded to show them just how big his cock was by opening up his pants. All of them went away very impressed.
Truman died at the house of Johnny Carson's ex-wife, Joanne.
The book is a good read.
Just don't be surprised is a small handcarved coffin arrives in your mailbox OP
It was his story about Bill Paley that finished him. Babe never spoke to him again.
It's a really seductive book - you can't put it down. He's got that gossipy quality down perfectly.
1. No Gregory Peck
2. No adorable tom boy.
3. No magical black man.
If PBS has it OnDemand, watch Robert Morse recreate the days after Esquire published, "Le Cote Basque."
This episode of American Playhouse is called "Tru" and can also be found YT
Clarke's biography of Capote was ok, but his biography of Judy Garland sucked. He's a big ol' Judy queen who places the blame for her hopeless drug and alcohol addiction squarely on her mother Ethel. In his view, everything was ALL Ethel's fault, not poor dear Judy's. Apparently Clarke believes everything Judy said about her mother, despite Judy's penchant for spewing absolute bullshit. When it came to her mother, Judy Garland was not a credible source of information. But Clarke buys her version of everything, simply because he's a smitten fan of hers.
One chapter from Answered Prayers ("Mojave") was included as a short story in Music for Chameleons and isn't included in the published version of AP. However, it very much follows the same theme and should be read along with it, OP.
BTW, it was originally intended to be a short story within the novel, written by the novel's protagonist.
If what Clarke asserts is really true R8, then why would Capote have been so surprised (or cared so much) about the fallout? There is nothing to suggest that he was unfazed by the social ostracism that followed.
By the way, it would have been one thing if Capote had just used things he "overheard" about people who didn't actually consider him a friend, but he went after people like the Paleys (who gave him the WORLD) and then was shocked (?) that Babe was both deeply embarrassed and betrayed.
It would also be better story if Capote went down in a blaze of glory and "lost it all" as the result of writing a great American novel. The sad part is that he lost it all for a book that he never even finished and the only interest it garnered was in the sordid and salacious secrets it exposed and the easy game of "who's who?"
That little bitch called me a "truck driver in drag" and criticized my writing. Funny as hell to me that my genre--roman a clef--was his downfall.
Bump. I just finished the book about his Black and White Ball. It was good. Those "Swans" seem sort of tedious but Jesus they took care of him. He also fucked over a few of the folks who helped make him a success.
nothing? Don't make me bump every other Capote thread.
Capote claimed that Jackie Susann heard him call her a "truck driver in drag" on the Tonight Show while she was on her deathbed and that's what killed her. Not true, but an entertaining story nonetheless.
I think it's cool that he was a brilliant writer, but never went to college.
R24, there's nothing to be learned in college that would help one to become a brilliant writer.
I don't think there are "Swans" anymore. Hillary and her type put an end to those, at least as public figures. The closest we have is Cornelia Guest, but she seems like she died on the vine, at least in terms of her ambitions.
Maybe there are Swans now, but they hide from the rest of us and play in their own little worlds.
"Answered Prayers," what there is of it, is absolutely brilliant and could have been Capote's best work had he finished it. Unfortunately, he considered himself a master publicist and published those three chapters before he had finished the book. The reaction from those he depicted in such an unflattering manner was swift and vicious. He was exiled from the world he loved. Almost all his friends (except Joanna Carson) stopped speaking to him. And he never finished book because he began drinking uncontrollably and popping pills day and night. He lost his ability to write. But the chapters that we have are glorious. A fun, campy, gossipy and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny novel. No one of his generation could really touch him as a writer. His ability to use the English language and craft startling beautiful sentences was unparalleled for an American writer at the time. "Answered Prayers" is a taste of what, in its finished form, would have been a breathtaking, brilliantly-written novel.
Are any of the swans still alive? Or did they all starve to death or die of lung cancer? Is there a definitive website on these ladies?
I loved Capote when I first began to read him almost 20 years ago. I love him and want to re-read the books, short stories and Answered Prayers. I do believe In Cold Blood owes as much to Harper Lee as it does Capote.
r8's story isn't accurate. Capote did want to break with the cafe society people and stop being their plaything to some extent, but he also loved some of them and was just destroyed when Babe Paley stopped speaking to him and as a result some of the others did too, including Slim Keith. Capote assumed he's be able to make up with Babe Paley (whom he offended the most and who was also the central player in that social world), but almost immediately afterward she started her fatal decline from cancer. Later Capote was to say of Babe Paley, "“She was the most important person in my life. And I was the most important person in hers.” When she was dying, Capote called her up and asked Bill Paley if he could speak to her: "Maybe you haven't heard, but my wife is very ill right now," Paley responded icily, "She can't be bothered by unimportant things," and hung up. And Capote never got to speak to her again before she died (and of course was not invited to the funeral service).
That was the end for Capote. He blamed the swans and their triviality for his long dry spell and his inability to write anything very good since IN COLD BLOOD, but of course he had also become completely addicted to their love and had found a mother figure in Babe Paley (his own mother had been obsessed with breaking into high society, and had neglected him as a result). In losing Babe Paley, he lost his best friend and mother-substitute, and had no one but himself to blame: the rest of his life was pretty horrible--one endless long decline.
And though "La Cote Basque" is compulsively readable if you know the people involved, it's not good literature at all; nor is the rest of ANSWERED PRAYERS. It's just gossip. Gossip is fun, but it's not the same thing as literature. As almost all Capote britics and biographers agree, though he said ANSWERED PRAYERS was going to be his great novel (the equivalent, Capote said, of Proust), it's impossible to imagine the stories involved forming a coherent narrative. Capote never actually read Proust: he thought it was just gossip about wealthy society people, and didn't understand that it's actually much more than that and is a metaphysical meditation on time, memory, history, etc.
I will always love T.C. for "Other Voices, Other Rooms". Yes, it's overly symbolic & has a immoral ending, but the experience of being a gay child in the Deep South is "caught".
Love thus thread. Just finished reading the vanity fair article on his decline. I am 43 and remember as a kid him going on the Today and Tonite shows with his distinctive voice. Was he one of the first out celebrities?
[quote]Are any of the swans still alive?
Wasn't Gloria Vanderbilt a swan? She's 88, but seems quite alive whenever she appears on Anderson Cooper's daytime show & elsewhere.
OUT? What choice did he have? Some just have no option but to BE.
[quote]he went after people like the Paleys (who gave him the WORLD)
William F. Buckley and Capote (which has the more grievous gayvoice?!).
This looks to be after Truman had his weight loss and face lift. His thought and speech patterns are odd. No wonder it took him so long to complete works, and his output was so small.
I think he was in love with Babe Paley, and tried to write the whole book to break her and her husband up (he was a notorious philanderer, and I'm sure she cried bitterly on little TC's shoulder many times))- just throwing in other gossipy stories to beef the piece up. And perhaps to get back at a lot of people he held grudges toward.
This stuff all happened as he was approaching middle age, losing his looks, dealing with traumatic childhood issues, dealing with guilt...
And perhaps there were mental issues inherited, too; his mother sounded bi-polar and his father, a compulsive liar, probably had narcissistic personality disorder.
He wrote that "I was in a hell of a lot of trouble", but he neglected to mention that he never recovered, but medicated himself to death with booze and pills.
It is brilliant and could have been his greatest work had he had the discipline to finish it. It's really a shame that he published those chapters before the novel was finished. That stopped the whole thing in its tracks. The book is impossible to put down. It is the most delicious roman-a-clef ever penned by anyone.
There really are no 'swans' anymore. Jackie, Lee, Babe Paley, CZ Guest, Nan Kempner, Jayne Wrightsman (the only one who I think is still alive, after Lee) Judy Peabody etc. were unique. Back then, high-society women just had a certain "something" that no longer exists and they were quite fun.
There's just no one like them today. Muffie Potter Aston, Somers Farkas etc. are more like freak shows than chic, stylish women.
A fast, bitchy and fun read. Nothing more, nothing less.
Um, hello, R40!
Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, & the Olsen twins
If Truman Capote were alive today he'd be fussing over Ann Romney and Teresa Heinz Kerry and Tinsley Mortimer. It's not like Babe Paley and Slim Keith and Marella Agnelli had more to say than these living women do; he just wanted to be around ultrarich women with glamorous lives the way his mother did before him.
I loved Truman back in the day and I still love him, despite (or perhaps because of) his many flaws. If those society twats had any brains they would have known he was a writer, not a lapdog.
So, in unraveling the "roman a clef" who's who?
I think the guy with the bloody sheets was supposed to be Mayor Lindsay, wasn't it?
While I'm at it, in "Music for Chameleons" the story "Handcarved Coffins" was supposedly an actual series of murders. Was the identity of the killer/victims ever made public?
I've never heard of "swans", but I LOVE it.
Guy with the bloody sheets was Bill Paley.
What is the story about the bloody sheets?
[quote]I've never heard of "swans", but I LOVE it.
I can't remember where I read it, but it was supposedly a winking reference.
In the days before lots of plastic surgery, society women of a certain age would often strive for an elegant, youthful appearance by extending their necks. When a group of them were together, they did indeed look somewhat comically like swans.
Pretty sly of ol Tru... It's a bitchy, biting, funny epithet... But what woman would object to being called a swan?
"Hello, my swans!!"
[quote]Is this the one about the Ann and Billy Woodward? Wait, that was Two Mrs Greenvilles or whatever.
Yeah, that was one of the stories, except he changed her name to Ann Hopkins. She killed her husband, herself, and her two kids killed themselves too. Two entire generation wiped out. Truman would've loved it!
Bill Paley was married to Capote's perfect swan, Babe. Then he wrote a thinly-disguised rather disgusting piece of gossip about Bill Paley and Happy Rockefeller in which she left a stain on the sheets "the size of Brazil." The story had Paley down on his hands and knees at their apartment in the St. Regis scrubbing out the stains and drying the sheets in the oven. It was vicious. And Babe Paley was dying of lung cancer at the time.
Society closed its doors faster than you can say persona non grata.
Babe Paley was THE Queen Bee of NY Society in the 50s and 60s. She was known to the general public as well, her pictures and articles about her were in the weekly magazines life Life etc.
[quote]I don't think there are "Swans" anymore.
There's not much call for charmless Jewish swans...
For the record, the Paley's Rottweiler did NOT have to be surgically removed from Nan Kempner when his knot failed to subside. Truman was just being unnecessarily catty because he was never invited to any of the beast-ivities.
Lee Radziwill is the last of the swans left.
Lord, even the basics are being lost here lately.
[quote]Lee Radziwill is the last of the swans left.
Marella Agnelli is still alive, I think.
He's my favourite author but I hated this book and Summer Crossing too.
Both lack any of his charm in my opinion.
We saw her at an AA meeting(Beverly Hills Rodeo) in 1977, she was huddled in a corner and receiving lots of attentia.
Her problem was very simple, what has killed so many drunks: she was unable to completely give herself 'to this simple program' because....she thought that her 'case was different',
So she had to die.
Bump: great thread :) Happy Thanksgiving to you all :)
[quote]Capote never actually read Proust
Isn't it true that Capote was not well read at all? I vaguely remember reading something about Capote thinking Dickens had ripped him off. Yeah.
how the fuck do any of you know what Capote read or didn't read? for fuck's sake, he grew up in a podunk town in mississippi. i'm sure he read voraciously to escape the monotony of small-town life.
You must have relapsed after you saw Capote, MPC. I was born in 1977 and will turn 36 next year.
[quote]how the fuck do any of you know what Capote read or didn't read? for fuck's sake, he grew up in a podunk town in mississippi. i'm sure he read voraciously to escape the monotony of small-town life.
Dial it down, Mary.
We know he didn't read Proust because his partner Jack Dunphy and his literary friends (who had read Proust) say they were pretty sure he hadn't, based on the fact he said repeatedly that "Answered Prayers" was going to be just like Proust, but of course it was nothing at all like it. They've said they think all he knew about "Remembrance of Things Past" was that it was about gossip in high society.
That story about the guy washing out the "streak" from the sheets is so outrageous that I am surprised that anyone would believe it actually happened. When you are as rich as these people, you simply get rid of the sheets and act like nothing happened.
Now, someone like Oscar Wilde, who was convicted because among other things, some hotel maid complained about the greasy streaks on his bed after he entertained some twink messenger boy for the night, would never have thought of covering up traces of a tryst.
TY T16, really enjoyed all nine episodes of Tru, Morse really had Capote's mannerisms down pat.
[quote]While I'm at it, in "Music for Chameleons" the story "Handcarved Coffins" was supposedly an actual series of murders. Was the identity of the killer/victims ever made public?
Handcarved Coffins was fiction. The guy who bought the rights from Capote was never able to confirm the facts of the story and eventually decided against making a movie about it. (They had signed Carrol O'Connor for the Mad Rancher who was killing everyone who voted against him at a water rights hearing.)
I thought Capote had a lot of nerve publishing that as truth.
Let's see. Just after they received little "handcarved coffins" in the mail, one old couple was killed by a bunch of rattlesnakes that had been injected with speed and left in their car. Another man was beheaded by razor wire strung across a road. A woman was drowned.
It was all made up.
Long article about Capote and Answered Prayers in last month's Vanity Fair.