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Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 21, 2004

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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: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375501339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375501333
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Considering Truman Capote's fabled social life, one would think that his private letters would be dripping with juicy gossip. Indeed, with correspondents and friends that included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Cecil Beaton, Christopher Isherwood, David O. Selznick, Tennessee Williams, Audrey Hepburn and Richard Avedon, these bright, energetic missives do include an occasional tasty tidbit. But as candid as Capote can be, one ultimately gets the sense that the author always knew his letters would be read by a wider audience some day, and rarely does Capote express less than bubbling enthusiasm and childlike devotion to his correspondents. It's up to Clarke, Capote's biographer, to fill in the occasionally sordid blanks, which he does in chapter intros and extensive footnotes. Much more profound than any gossip is the humor, sensitivity and ambition with which Capote seems to have approached every experience in his life. and his incredible discipline and passion for writing, spending hours sequestered in some of the world's most glamorous locations, composing the stories and books. This entertaining collection gives us a firsthand account of Capote's journey as he comes into his own as an artist, charting his gradual but inevitable transformation into a literary and society superstar. Readers who want to know more about the real Capote will pick up the author's books (which include In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's) and continue to revel in his wise and whimsical prose. B&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Was Truman Capote (who died in 1984) a major or a minor writer? The debate continues, but soaring above the fray comes this collection of his letters, which will be of keen interest to readers who simply appreciate his fiction (see our starred review of his Collected Stories on p.58) and his standard-setting "new nonfiction" book, In Cold Blood (1966), and choose to leave the debate of major or minor status to others. What matters here is that Capote was a man of language and passion, and the two appear in tandem in the correspondence he penned from adolescence onward. Capote's untrammeled personality fairly falls off the pages of these letters, and rather than being irritating, his disregard of reticence is especially poignant in this day of sterile e-mailing. Ideal for devotees to dip into here and there instead of reading from start to finish. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
There are wonderful and numerous footnotes throughout; Clark does a great job of explaining who is who or what is happening.
Shannon L. Yarbrough
When you read personal correspondence written to friends, lovers, and business associates . . . well, it doesn't get any better!
Everyone should own a copy of this for your quirky dinner guests along It's great fun to take turns reading his letters aloud.
E. B. Towle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Phillip O. VINE VOICE on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Truman Capote is one of my all time favorite writers so I was surprised that his letters are somewhat of a disappointment. The letters span 46 years with the majority of them from the late 40s and 50s. It's too bad that there are only a handful of correspondence from Capote's celebrated period following the release of "In Cold Blood," a book which turned him into a celebrity. I suppose he was too busy with his success and celebrity to write letters during this period. There is nothing about his famous Black and White Ball or the infamous article which scandalized the jet set. Hardly anything is here from the 70s either, a period in which he was practically a household name, appearing in movies and talk shows.

What is included are letters to his editors, Robert Linscott and Bennett Cerf, discussing his work and responding to criticism. Many letters to his lovers also are included but Capote seemed to have been very discreet (unlike in public life). Letters to David Selznick and Jennifer Jones give us a glimpse into the years of Hollywood life but very little juicy gossip - they leave the reader wanting more. During the years of Capote's research for "In Cold Blood," he corresponded frequently with Alvin Dewey, the detective in charge of the case, and his wife Marie. These letters are mainly questions from Capote concerning details of the case and Capote providing the Deweys with access to his Hollywood friends. Letters to the Dewey's son, Alvin Jr., show remarkable affection and advice and criticism to an aspiring writer.

Capote was a wanderer and his letters were written from his various residences across the globe - Sicily, Spain, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, California, New York, Alabama, etc. Jack Dunphy, his longtime companion is often mentioned with love and affection.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on June 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I always loved Truman Capote's writing and looked forward to this book oh, so much, especiallywhen I saw it was edited by the estimable Gerald Clarke, who has written so brilliantly on Capote in his biography (and who also wrote GET HAPPY, a terrific life of Judy Garland). (Hmmm, he must specialize in the tiny.)

But alas Capote's letters just aren't as good as his fiction. They seem hurried, scattered, as though he were writing too fast to revise, everything exactly the opposite of what one likes about the stories and filmscripts. I will say you do get a different side of him, and the outlines of his social world become clearer, so view this compilation as an addendum to the biography, and you won't go far wrong.

I was surprised to see him make so much of (i.e. flatter) Cecil Beaton, it sounded phony. It seems that he treated Newton Arvin pretty well all things put together. Some have said that he "used" Arvin to get ahead and then dumped him once he had found a measure of his own success. But Arvin can't have been an easy guy to live with IMHO. Another interesting correspondent is William Goyen. I think the best letter in all of TOO BRIEF A TREAT is Capote's letter congratulating Goyen on the achievement of THE HOUSE OF BREATH. That letter, in the perfection of its phrases and the conviction of its rapture, is alone worth the price of the book. It's a shame that Goyen later turned on Capote and treated him so shabbily. Good for Gerald Clarke for pointing this out.

Meanwhile the good news for Capote fans is that his novel SUMMER CROSSING, about which many of the letters to Bob Linscott are devoted, has been recovered and now, fifty-plus years later, it might be seeing the light of day. In the interim we will re-read these letters, hoping to scan in more data on the terrific catastrophe that was Truman Capote's life.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Your letter was too brief a treat, but a treat all the same; there is only one excitement to my day, and that is when the postman comes." So wrote the author who sometimes waited an hour for the best word to come to mind when engaged in concocting a novel, yet spun off letters to friends and colleagues like cotton candy.

Truman Capote, to whom fame came early and lasted long, called all of his correspondents by such adorations as "precious baby, darling child." To almost anyone he was likely to say, "much love, little blue eyes" or "I miss you 24 hours of the day" or "a thousand kisses, precious." It seemed that nearly everyone he wrote to was his darling, his love, and wanted showering with kisses.

Not that he couldn't be cutting and catty, though always with gentility, at least on paper: "I'm afraid he's set fire to too many bridges"; "he's furious because anyone other than himself is here" (of W.H. Auden); and, of Jimmy (James) Baldwin, "his essays are at least intelligent, though they almost invariably end on a fakely hopeful, hymn-singing note."

Of his early work on IN COLD BLOOD he wrote, "This is my last attempt at reportage." Like almost every writer, he wanted to know what the critics were really thinking and get copies of all his reviews. He managed to sound both humble and very puffy when referring to his successes, and terribly anxious about the fate of pieces in progress.

A collection of so very many letters (for that is all the book is) can start to feel water-logged after a while. It's a good thing to recall that posterity will not necessarily be fascinated by one's complaints about the cold, the prices of goods in foreign cities, or the antics of one's pets (and Truman had many).
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