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Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 9, 2007


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066612
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,103,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This volume of collected essays, many out of print since their original publication, is both a long overdue and welcome addition to the Capote revival. It's arranged chronologically—from a short 1946 piece on New Orleans, written when Capote was 22, to a brief appreciation of Willa Cather he wrote the day before he died in 1984. The 42 pieces range from one-page portraits of public figures such as Ezra Pound and Coco Chanel to the 104-page 1956 The Muses Are Heard, a masterful journalistic account, first printed in the New Yorker, of an American opera company's tour of Porgy and Bess in the U.S.S.R. The collection contains some great writing—his 1970s Handcarved Coffins, an account of a Midwestern murder that recalls In Cold Blood and can be savored for its beautifully nuanced balance of empathy and emotional horror. Many of the pieces, however, such as a 1974 sketch of Elizabeth Taylor written for Ladies' Home Journal, feel occasional and off-the-cuff. While integral to Capote and his evolution as a writer, these pieces do not constitute his best work. Still, the volume's completeness will recommend it to fans as well as anyone seriously interested in mid–20th-century American literature. (Nov. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“A must-have treasure for Capote fans . . . These are delicious, dramatic, and tender nonfiction portraits and tales.”
–NPR’s Morning Edition


“A wonderful volume . . . Nearly every page can be read with real pleasure. . . . No matter what his subject, [Capote’s] canny, careful art gives it warm and breathing life”  
–The Washington Post Book World

“Every piece is a treasure. . . . Pages and pages of remarkably evocative, careful and well-observed prose [delineate,] in a measured and elegant manner, one of the most remarkable American literary lives of the twentieth century.”
–Jane Smiley, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve on July 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was the same book that I checked out from my local library prior to ordering from Amazon.
The contents are typical Capote-clever masterpieces in essay form that weave their spell, written over a span of several decades.
As Mr. Capote related to me in 1978, his was a genuine love for the written word. He used to spend long periods of time as a child practicing sentence construction and paragraph formation.
An excellent read all the way around.

Steve Harris
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By satine mullen on February 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have never read Capotes essays you must. He has the ability to put you in the story like no one else. It is a must for your collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Designer Shirt Diva on September 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have not read Truman Capote, recommend this book as an excellent read. What a gifted writer he was. Fast delivery.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Louie's Mom on January 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was very excited to buy this book and begin reading it during the holidays. I skipped around in it rather than reading from start to finish. One of the best items in it isn't actually an essay at all - its a murder mystery story that is captivating, but is fictional ("Handcarved Coffins.") (Midway through reading it I searched via Google for info on the murders and quickly found it was not an actual non-fiction account.) I enjoyed the essay about the history of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood where Capote lived for several years. An essay about a theatre group going to the USSR to perform Porgy and Bess was interesting and humorous.

The essay on Marlon Brando, "The Duke in His Doman" seemed like a waste of pages. The gist of it is that when Capote met with Brando in Japan during the filming of Sayonara, Brando was self-absorbed and arrogantly believed himself to be a great philospher. I think that essay could have been left out.

There are a number of very short essays that are probably better described as "vignettes." I found these less satisfying - Capote seems better at capturing a place or person with more words, with the exception of the Brando essay.

This book might have been better if it had been a combination of essays and letters and some of the weaker essays had been left out, or supplemented by relevant letters.
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