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Writer Truman Capote saw the rich and famous as his material, and that became his downfall

From May 26th The Capote Tapes to see. The documentary sheds new light on Capote’s (probably) never-finished scandal novel Answered Prayers which heralded the decline of the writer. A reconstruction.

Rob van Scheers

On July 12, 1980, British writer Martin Amis undertook a pilgrimage to his literary hero, Truman Capote. The report is in Amis’ America collection The Moronic Inferno (1986). Capote had just Music for Chameleons published, a collection of short stories and portraits. At the request of publisher Random House, Capote was going to do some interviews, but he wasn’t much into it.

Amis rang the bell at Capote’s apartment at United Nations Plaza in Manhattan. Inside, the writer was lying on the couch. The visitor notes: “Then, from the gloom at the end of the hall, emerges the helplessly staggering figure of Mr. Capote, who lets out a soft wail by way of greeting, and shakes a limp hand. For God’s sake, I’d have liked to say – never mind that interview. Better call an ambulance.’

At that time, the Prince of American Letters was 55 years old, with four years to go. He started writing at the age of 8. By the age of 24, he made a spectacular entrance with his debut Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). The novella followed Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and of course In Cold Blood (1966) – his idiosyncratic journalistic-literary reconstruction of a quadruple robbery murder in Kansas. What went wrong with the man who, according to Norman Mailer, wrote the most beautiful sentences of their generation? (And that’s saying something, because the Mailer known as an egomaniac was mostly full of himself.)

The writer in 1958 in the house at 70 Willow Street where he lived at the time. Here Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood.Image Getty

The answer lies in the documentary The Capote Tapes† Director Ebs Burnough performs spokespersons from all walks of life and has collected a wealth of archive images. He has interviewed writers such as Jay McInerney, the recently deceased fashion king André Leon Talley and the retired talk show host Dick Cavett – unfortunately only Martin Amis is missing. In addition, Burnough was able to use the sound recordings of the American journalist George Plimpton (1927-2003), who wrote his own biography in 1997. Truman Capote (1997) had spoken to everyone of any importance, and had kept the tapes neatly.

We can hear a parade of Capote’s contemporaries from beyond the grave. Not only Norman Mailer, with that quote from above, but also actresses like Lauren Bacall and Candice Bergen. Capote knew everyone in New York, and everyone in New York knew Capote. Of course he also regularly speaks.

The common thread in all these conversations is Capote’s fascination with other people’s fame. “Every writer is a voyeur,” he replies when talk show host Cavett questions him in May 1971. The reason is a book he has been threatening with for years: Answered Prayers† It should become a morality sketch of the rich and famous† He has the novel cycle as an example Looking for the lost time by Marcel Proust, who operated along the same lines.

Nicely literary, but apparently Capote did not understand that he was orchestrating his own demise with this key novel. He would give a big blow out about the high society in which he lived for years as their ‘cuddly gay’. About their affairs, their yachts, their private islands, the parties, the authorities they had in their pockets. “These people are my material.”

Cavett: ‘Isn’t that dangerous? Won’t they get angry?’

Capote, smiling, “They’ll only get mad if they’re not in it.”

hubris? The revenge of socialites like Gloria Vanderbilt, Mona von Bismarck, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis and other Manhattan powers known for fame turned out to be horrific. But now we are getting ahead of things.

First, the documentary delves into Capote’s troubled past in New Orleans. Father Arch who was never there, divorce, mother Lillie Mae who worked as a waitress and got into drinking, only child Truman outsourced to aunts in Alabama, lonely childhood, that work. During her second marriage, Lillie Mae wanted to move up the ladder. Together with her new husband, the bookkeeper José Capote, she took Truman to genteel Park Avenue, Manhattan in 1932. That’s what the former Miss Alabama had always dreamed of. When José was convicted of accounting fraud, the dream picture quickly collapsed again.

The young Truman Capote in The Capote Tapes. Image

The young Truman Capote in The Capote Tapes.

Biographer George Plimpton: ‘Lillie Mae committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 48. She wanted to belong to high society, but was not accepted in those circles. Answered Prayers Truman had to deal with that milieu.’

That was the dark side of Capote. He also had a happier mood. In addition to his short stories, novellas, novels and true crimeexercises, he published razor-sharp portraits. About Marilyn Monroe, James Baldwin, and also about Marlon Brando, who got very angry about that afterwards. They are collected in the anthology Truman Capote: Portraits and Observations (1993), and are still very readable.

Truman Capote dances with Marilyn Monroe at the El Marocco, New York 1955. Image Bettmann Archive

Truman Capote dances with Marilyn Monroe at the El Marocco, New York 1955.Image Bettmann Archive

At the height of his own fame – right after In Cold Blood – Capote decided to throw a party on November 28, 1966. Or, well, party? The venue was the grandiose ballroom of The Plaza hotel in New York, and the guest list for this masquerade black-and-white dance party spanned all over Manhattan, from Norman Mailer and Andy Warhol to a diverse selection from the ranks of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Rothschilds. . With diabolical pleasure he leaked that guest list beforehand The New York Times† “Tonight I’ll make five hundred friends and fifteen thousand enemies,” Capote cooed contentedly. Only Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow left the party early because Sinatra wanted a portion Chow Mein

Now the rich and famous ate from his hand, so to speak. The tipping point came when, in 1975-76, he finished four chapters of Answered Prayers published in the magazine Esquire† disbelief. bewilderment. About so much thinly veiled gossip and backbiting. Capote was promptly puked out by the self-proclaimed elite. Cancelled, we would say now. Like a court jester, he was lovingly embraced by the hip scene of nightclub Studio 54, but he was too old for those long disco nights, and he wasn’t very resistant to whiskey and cocaine either.

So it could happen that Martin Amis found him like a downed bird. Fragments of Capote’s unfinished last book were published posthumously in the 1986 edition Answered Prayers, but the missing chapters were never found. Or maybe he never wrote them. The pocket edition has 146 pages, which is a bit small for a book that ruined his writing life. Luckily we have The Capote Tapes yet.

Truman Capote on film

Several of Capote’s books have been made into films, such as In Cold Blood (1967, Richard Brooks) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, Blake Edwards), with the ever-glamorous Audrey Hepburn as protagonist Holly Golightly. There are also biographical feature films, such as capote (2005, Bennett Miller), who earned Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for his role as Capote, and slightly underestimated it infamous (2006, Douglas McGrath). Capote’s own performance as an actor in the thriller parody is downright curious Murder by Death (1976, Robert Moore), written by Neil Simon. Here you will find him as the eccentric multimillionaire Lionel Twain, between established names such as Peter Sellers, David Niven and Peter Falk. The DVD is now a collector’s item.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in the Capote biopic. Image

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in the Capote biopic.

Writer Truman Capote saw the rich and famous as his material, and that became his downfall
Source link Writer Truman Capote saw the rich and famous as his material, and that became his downfall

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