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Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers (Inner Lives) Hardcover – April 29, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Capote has always been a riddle wrapped in an enigma. When I interviewed Capote over the last three years of his life, he always amused, and sometimes confused. He told me stories with a straight face and earnestness which I accepted as truth-- his truth-- only to discover other versions of the same story later on. So, what to make of Tiny Terror? Schultz has gone a long way in this brief book to show us how complex, how complicated, how intriguing, and how mystifying Truman Capote was. His work lives on. His character continues to be defined." -- Lawrence Grobel, author of Conversations with Capote

"A probing, ground-breaking analysis of seemingly inexplicable twists and turns in the life of Truman Capote. Schultz skillfully uses contemporary personality theories to show how Capote's innate personal qualities and excruciatingly painful childhood experiences combined to produce exceptional works of art. Beautifully written, the book will grip you like a mystery novel." -- Phillip R. Shaver, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis, and co-author of Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change

"A fascinating analysis of the complexities of Capote's relationships with different sides of himself, with the two murderers he wrote about in In Cold Blood, and with the elite social world he turned savagely against in Answered Prayers."-- William M. Runyan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Life Histories and Psychobiography

"Schultz, a master psychobiographer, constructs in vivid prose a convincing, multifaceted interpretation of Capote's work and his 'consistently inconsistent' personality. The culmination of 25 years spent studying the infamous author, this work also suggests directions for future theorizing and research in personality psychology." -- Nicole B. Barenbaum, Professor of Psychology, Sewanee, The University of the South

"A fascinating, erudite deliberation." --Kirkus Reviews

"Deftly disassembles the nuts and bolts of Capote's mucky psychology...As Mr. Schultz shows in this enjoyable guide through the fetid swamp of the author's psyche, [Capote] was destined to remain a slave to his infantile impulses." --The Wall Street Journal

"A remarkably insightful book." --Book Chase

"Schultz has a captivating style and an insightful way of summarizing a fascinating life in short chapters in a slim, well-written, with a fascinating subject." --Creative Loafing Atlanta

About the Author

William Todd Schultz, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Pacific University. Over the past two decades he's written numerous psychobiographical articles and book chapters, on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, Roald Dahl, James Agee, and Jack Kerouac, among others. He is editor of the Handbook of Psychobiography, published by Oxford University Press in 2005.

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Product Details

  • Series: Inner Lives
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199752044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199752041
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.9 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,466,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Todd Schultz is the author of two books, both psychological interpretations of artists: "Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers" (2011, Oxford) and "An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus" (2011, Bloomsbury). He also edited Oxford's landmark "Handbook of Psychobiography" in 2005, and he curates/edits the "Inner Lives" book series. Previous articles or book chapters by Schultz have focused on Kerouac, Plath, Kathryn Harrison, Roald Dahl, James Agee, Oscar Wilde, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Schultz's current 2011 project is a biography of the gifted musician Elliott Smith, who died in 2003. Schultz is Professor of Psychology at Pacific University and he lives in Portland Oregon. He blogs at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By adorian on June 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
When I was in grad school, I had to read Marie Bonaparte's massive psychological study of Poe. It was a long arduous experience, and I vowed I would never read another interpretive psychobiography of a famous author. I don't know why I bought this short slight little book about Capote and his inability to complete what he hoped would be his final masterpiece. Maybe it was because I wanted to read more theories about whether the long complete "Answered Prayers" manuscript ever really did exist, and, if so, what might have happened to it.

If I had known this book was about how Capote claimed he was locked in a New Orleans hotel room when he was two years old while his partying mother went out on the town and how this event (according to the author) shaped and colored the rest of Capote's life, I would not have bought it. The author reminds me of those political pundits you see on the cable talk shows: loud and repetitive. "I am an expert! You must accept everything I say as fact because I am an expert!"

There is too much psychiatrist jargon clogging up the paragraphs. Just because you cloak a statement in fancy professional terminology does not make it true....or interesting. The author twice confuses the film "Notorious" with "Infamous." (pages 91 and 161) I'm sure a psychoanalyst could have a field day explaining why our author cannot write the title "Infamous." I had to read a certain nonsense sentence four times (p. 50) before I realized "thought" was a typo for "though."

It doesn't seem helpful or even true to repeat over and over that Capote's female characters represent his mother. The conclusions he draws seem applicable to just about every author around---childhood trauma...neglectful parents....friends who are no longer friends.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Capps on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find the life and character of Truman Capote to be fascinating....most tellingly retold in Gerald Clarke's biography, Capote: A Biography, and Robert Morse's portrayal in the play "Tru." However this book I didn't feel was very insightful. It seemed to me that the author started out with a couple of assumptions (namely that Capote reacted to the world around him using one of two maladaptive strategies: excessive vulnerability and turn-and-attack mode) and went through his life just looking to prove that. For a psychobiograpy, I found odd that he hardly explores Capote's life-long friendship with Harper Lee, and with one exception (not counting Perry Smith, one of the "In Cold Blood" murderers) doesn't explore Capote's romantic or sexual relationships. How can one analyze someone's psyche and leave out their major ADULT relationships? And, does he adequately explain why Capote bit the hand the fed him with "Answered Prayers?"....maybe. Although he theory that part of Truman's motivation was to get back at the high society that shunned his mother and led to her suicide seems a stretch to me.
By the way, I also enjoyed the book "Party of the Century" that tells the story of Capote's infamous Black and White Ball ( Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball.)
(Also, he could have used a better editor: he misstates the name of the movie Infamous as Notorious of course a much older and different movie.)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Duncan Ewing on May 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Always a pleasure to read more about the amazing Mr. Capote, but there ain't much here. The reviews above say about all there is... Capote felt abandoned (left alone in his room as a kid - aren't all kids?), had love-hate with the super-rich. That's it? Compare this for instance with Capote's own shattering portrait of, say, Perry Smith. No answers to the interesting questions, like what was brilliant about his art (in fact hardly any praise in here, and that hedged) and where did that come from?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on May 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
American Heritage Dictionary defines the term psychobiography as "a biography that analyzes the psychological makeup, character, or motivations of its subject." This approach to biography is generally more, concerned with the why of a life than it is with the what. As William Todd Schultz makes clear in Tiny Terror, author Truman Capote is a near perfect candidate for such a treatment.

As noted in the book's subtitle, Schultz focuses on one specific question in regards to understanding Capote: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers. Schultz wants to know what would motivate a man like Truman Capote to so viciously trash the group of high-society women he called his best friends. These women, Capote's "swans," were the only real friends he seemed to have left late in his life, and that he would risk losing those friendships for the sake of a novel he never finished is difficult to understand. Capote did take that risk and, as a result, he was ostracized and blackballed from the company of these women for the rest of his life, leaving him to die a broken man in the home of perhaps his last friend in the world, Johnny Carson's ex-wife, Joanne.

Tiny Terror delves deeply into Capote's dark Southern childhood in order to explain how he came to be the man he was. His was a childhood of insecurities in which he felt abandoned by his parents and failed to form any real friendships other than with fellow author and childhood neighbor Harper Lee, (although their relationship is only lightly touched upon in the book). According to Schultz's theory, because of so much early insecurity, Capote grew into a neurotically supersensitive adult who always "expected to be hurt" in any emotional relationship he entered. Sooner or later, he would be rejected.
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