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Music for Chameleons Paperback – March 29, 1994

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Editorial Reviews


 “Electrifying . . . a knockout. Capote’s alacrity and cunning makes this his most enjoyable book.” —Newsweek

 “An incomparable stylist and entertainer . . . clean and cool . . . [with a] superb, near-perfect pitch with dialogue.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Everything is displayed in this book: insights and recollections of the famous and the obscure; old jokes and fresh wit. . . . These stories and vignettes will endure.” —The New Republic

From the Inside Flap

In these gems of reportage Truman Capote takes true stories and real people and renders then with the stylistic brio we expect from great fiction. Here we encounter an exquisitely preserved Creole aristocrat sipping absinthe in her Martinique salon; an enigmatic killer who sends his victims announcements of their forthcoming demise; and a proper Connecticut householder with a ruinous obsession for a twelve-year-old girl he has never met. And we meet Capote himself, who, whether he is smoking with his cleaning lady or trading sexual gossip with Marilyn Monroe, remainds one of the most elegant, malicious, yet compassionate writers to train his eye on the social fauna of our time.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 29, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679745661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679745662
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Truman Capote was born in New Orleans in 1925 and was raised in various parts of the south, his family spending winters in New Orleans and summers in Alabama and New Georgia. By the age of fourteen he had already started writing short stories, some of which were published. He left school when he was fifteen and subsequently worked for the New Yorker which provided his first - and last - regular job. Following his spell with the New Yorker, Capote spent two years on a Louisiana farm where he wrote Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). He lived, at one time or another, in Greece, Italy, Africa and the West Indies, and travelled in Russia and the Orient. He is the author of many highly praised books, including A Tree of Night and Other Stories (1949), The Grass Harp (1951), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), In Cold Blood (1965), which immediately became the centre of a storm of controversy on its publication, Music for Chameleons (1980) and Answered Prayers (1986), all of which are published by Penguin. Truman Capote died in August 1984.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By AusE VINE VOICE on September 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I see much skepticism in the other reviews of this book about Capote's trustworthiness in representing a story as truth or fiction, but I have to say that I was able to put my own judgment about those matters aside, and enjoy the highly entertaining way in which he writes. Was the conversation with Marilyn Monroe real, partly real, or totally an invention of what others have said was a drug-addled mind - who cares? We will never truly know, and that is the beauty of it. Both parties have departed this earth; both are regarded somewhat mythically, and I do not believe that Capote was doing anything other than attempting to entertain, which he does in a sensational, shocking, but addictively readable way. I have to confess that there were only a few of the "fictional" stories at the beginning that I truly enjoyed, but I was thoroughly entertained by the short pieces - episodes with Truman Capote and his unusual band of friends and acquaintances - in the latter third of this book. The central story of the Handcarved Coffins had much that anyone attempting to discredit factually would likely have fun with. I have not researched the story, so do not know if it was indeed a factual series of murders, or merely presented as such by Capote. I was not concerned with that, either here, or when I read In Cold Blood, by the same author. That piece was obviously more of a factual account, a highly publicised crime, but written in enjoyable prose. Handcarved Coffins was so much more compellingly written than much in the "detective" genre (which I try to avoid) today. Capote had a talent for storytelling that I have only recently discovered, but have quickly grown to appreciate.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Hilde Bygdevoll on October 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
From each country I visit, I buy a book as a souvenir. While on interrail this summer, I stumbled over the "Music for Chameleons" in Prague. I have not read a lot of Capote, but nevertheless, this must be Capote at his best.
His writing is simple and direct, yet beautiful and elegant. In a way, his economic writing style reminds me of Hemingway. Eloquent, with not one word out of place. "Music for Chameleons" had my attention from the preface to the very last page. The author has this amazing ability to grab the reader's attention and hold on to it. When reading this book, I was a part of it. I was there; I could feel the emotions of each of the characters in the different stories.
The book contains several short stories and one non-fiction novel. I don't normally like short stories, but after reading this book, I am now a great fan of short stories. At least Capote's short stories. They are extraordinary! My favorite among these stories is the story of his dope-smoking cleaning lady. A truly wicked story. The longer piece in this book, the novel, "Handcarved Coffins", is about his investigation of a murder case in Kansas. Great mystery, many details, and I read the whole story in one sitting.
"Music for Chameleons" is one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read and I read it in 50 page gulps. A compelling read. Highly recommended!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book cleverly displays Capote's most interesting short fiction works and a finely crafted true murder story entitled "Handcarved Coffins." Capote once again shows how illustrative his words and phrasings can be from the author's only book dedicated completely to his short works.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on July 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
In the truest sense of the word, Truman Capote is a wordsmith. Even before looking at the context of a story, I am amazed by Capote's ability to to craft words together in a sentence for a powerful meaning. While I wish I had half of his writing talent, I also wish more contemporary writers were as gifted in composing prose as Capote.

In large part, "Music for Chameleons" fits into Capote's unique category "the non-fiction novel". I have noticed other reviewers have disputed some of the facts in this book which I will leave for them to debate. For purposes of this review, I will state that I enjoyed this book as will many others that are familiar with Capote's writing and the celebrity culture with which he was engrained. Aside from a small minority, the stories focused on ordinary people. The interview with Marilyn Monroe reveals a quirky side of her character which sheds light on a different side of her as a person. While I thought "Handcarvered Coffins" was the highlight of the set, I also enjoyed stories like "A Day's Work" and Hello, Stranger."

Some readers may pick and choose which stories from this set that they read or even enjoy. It is appropriate that Capote closed the collection with a self-interview. While initially evasive in his self-interview, Capote bring the collection of stories full circle with a beautiful simple theme.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Leach on April 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
One of the most purely enjoyable books I've ever read. Capote can paint a great image in just a few words. His economy is what I like most about him.
This collection kicks off with a few fascinating short stories, then the main course: his 100 or so page novella 'Handcarved Coffins', his alleged investigation of a multiple murder in Kansas. Great stuff, a compelling read, but I'd take it with a pinch of salt.
After that come a few pen portraits, including one of his dope-smoking cleaning lady which is very funny. There is also the revealing account of an afternoon with Marilyn Monroe (Capote is a shameless but fascinating namedropper, so be warned).
In some ways the UK version has a better cover, a great photo of the author dancing with Marilyn Monroe!
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