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Other Voices, Other Rooms Paperback – International Edition, February 1, 1994
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“Intense, brilliant . . . . Capote has an astonishing command . . . a magic all his own.” —The Atlantic
“Truman Capote is the most perfect writer of my generation.” —Norman Mailer
“Dazzling.” —Chicago Tribune
From the Inside Flap
Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semiautobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully's Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.
Fueled by a world-weariness that belied Capote's tender age, this novel tempers its themes of waylaid hopes and lost innocence with an appreciation for small pleasures and the colorful language of its time and place.
This new edition, featuring an enlightening Introduction by John Berendt, offers readers a fresh look at Capote's emerging brilliance as a writer of protean power and effortless grace. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Truman Capote is a childhood friend of Harper Lee, as well as a contemporary of Flannery O'Connor. It is semi autobiographical and, I think, one can discern the figurative, literary debut of "Dill" and "Scout" Finch from the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird". Joel Knox is drawn from the author, who is also the inspiration for "Dill". Dill is born, so to speak, in Chapter 2 of this novel. Idabel is inspired by Harper Lee, who then goes on to represent herself by "Scout" Finch. It also deals with the issue of homosexuality and transvestitism in a somewhat subtle manner, and just after World War II, this was a sensitive topic to say the least. As such this novel seems to me to be at a very interesting and unique literary crossroads.
Joel Harrison Knox is a 13 y/o boy who lived in New Orleans, LA. Surrounded by a cast of characters like Mr. Mystery - an artist magician who played in vaudeville houses in New Orleans, Annie Rose Kupperman - another artist, and family - his mother, his aunt and friends. All this comes to an end after Joel's mother dies and his estranged father, Edw. R. Sanford, Esq sends a letter and money requesting Joel to come live at Skully's Landing, somewhere near Noon City. Mr. Sansom has married Amy Skully and the letter says she is also happy to have Joel live with them.
It becomes clear early enough that there is something wrong. When Joel arrives to Noon City, there is no one waiting for him. After catching a ride to Skully's Landing, he is unable to see his father. His step mother, Amy, keeps telling Joel it's not time yet.
Joel has to face life in a house without electricity or plumbing, filled with characters: Miss Amy, and his clever and cousin Randolph, their black "maid" Missouri (Zoo) Fever, and Zoo's ancient grandfather Jesus Fever. Joel's father is in the house too, but not in the form he anticipated. He's an invalid that must be taken care of 24/7. Little Sunshine, a hermit, and two local girls, Twin sisters Florabel and the wild tomboy Idabel Thompkins, round out the players and are Joel's allies in a threatening world of perversity, mental instability, and sexual ambiguity.
The story is filled with ghosts, dreams and a series of comical events; at times it really feels like Capote is putting on a human freak show for the thrill-seeking reader. He leads us through a world of decaying old buildings and broken spirits. But Capote always respects the essential humanity of his troubled characters.
Narrated from the third person universal point of view, the story is told in a beautifully lyric style.
The main theme is sexuality, love, and gender identity. Capote establishes this theme early on in his description of the main character, Joel, who is described as not looking like a "'real' boy": "He was too pretty, too delicate and fair-skinned." Afterwards we find out that cousin Randolph was in love with Pepe Alvarez. "The brain may take the advice. but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries...any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves..." Raymond om pages 118-9.
Time is another theme. Joel states: "Amy, Randolph, his father, they were all outside of time, all circling the present like spirits: was this why they seemed to him like a dream?" And Randolph adds: "Have you never heard what wise men say: all of the future exists in the past."
Loneliness is a another theme. Randolph says to Joel: "But we are alone, darling child, terribly, isolated each from the other." p119
Physical beauty and identity is depicted as a reflection in mirrors: "They can romanticize us so, mirrors, and that is their secret: what a subtle torture it would be to destroy all the mirrors in the world: where then could we look for reassurance of our identities?" Randolph on page 113.
A great read. Capote delivers a novel that will forever live with the reader as a voice in the rooms of the soul. It is an exquisitely sad voice but not one that should ever be silenced.
I am a big fan of Carson McCullers and it is easy to see that she is one of Capote’s influences. Capote however is able to take up McCullers’ mantle and give it a modern sheen: while McCullers uses her ‘freakish’ characters to explore human loneliness, Capote tackles this motif but adds more sincerity. Joel in the end, despite not finding the father he was searching for, does feel accepted by his new community. On the very last page of the book when Joel discovers that it is actually Cousin Randolph in the window, dressed as the old woman, this realization finalizes his sense of belonging.
This novel is just another reminder of the talent that Truman Capote was, even though this was his first novel, he writes with great command. I recommend this book.
Salinger is my favorite writer, without exception for many years now, and for me this book read like Salinger grew up in the deep south, though tastefully free of the apathy he is known for. Highly detailed moments, however realistically mundane, manifest from of a young and southern tongue so ripe with inspiration you can taste the fruit of his timeless passion.
Sometimes I notice something so inexplicably beautiful that I try to remember it forever, just to have a nice thought for replay. Reading this book gave me thought after thought like the ones I collect, and I'll keep em right next to my own.