September 22, 2017
Truman Capote was gifted in so many ways, but his fatal weakness was chasing hedonism & notoriety. After the huge success of In Cold Blood, he told a friend that his follow-up, a roman à clef called Answered Prayers, was “going to do to America what Proust did to France.” He told People magazine that he was constructing his book like a gun: “There’s the handle, the trigger, the barrel & finally, the bullet. And when that bullet is fired from the gun, it’s going to come out with a speed and power like you’ve never seen—wham!”
It did, too, but it was a self-inflicted wound.
After a chapter, “La Côte Basque 1965,” was published in Esquire in November 1975, his many society friends saw themselves in an unflattering light. Two more chapters ran in Esquire but by then he’d became persona non grata, shunned by his former friends and banished from the social circles he so loved. Soon he spiraled down a drugs-and-alcohol crevasse, dying eight years later. The manuscript was never found and most believe he only wrote those three chapters.
Capote clearly had his demons, but was this also an epic mid-life crisis, a profound sense that he would never duplicate the enormous success of In Cold Blood? Suicide devised as a Shakespearean tragedy?
he story is recapped in this recent essay on Electric Literature, the former quarterly literary journal, now a terrific non-profit web site (with a dead trees version available via print-on-demand).
The story is recapped in this recent essay on Electric Literature, the former quarterly literary journal, now a terrific non-profit web site (with a dead trees version available via print-on-demand).