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The Grass Harp
on January 10, 2013
The Grass Harp
By Truman Capote
Reviewed by Maureen Huntington
The Grass Harp is a short story written by Truman Capote in 1951; set in the countryside of the Deep South. The hills in the small town were beautifully covered with Indian grass that change color with the seasons. The wind makes a sound the locals called the grass harp.
When the eleven year old Collin Fenwick’s mother died, his father sent him to live with his cousins Verena and Dolly Talbo. Verena, was a whip-thin, handsome woman who was the richest person in town. Owning most of the stores in town had hardened Verena, who was actually younger than her sister. Dolly was a shy lady who could disguise herself as an object in the room, a shadow in the corner, whose presence was a delicate happening. She also allowed Verena to make all her decisions. Catherine Creed was Dolly’s only friend. Catherine had been hired out to Mr. Uriah Talbo and had grown up with the Talbo sisters. She lived in the back yard in a tin roofed house with sunflowers set among butterbean vines. She claimed to be Indian, which made most people wink because Catherine was dark as the angels of Africa. Dolly and Catherine were inseparable; reason being that Dolly was the only one who could understand Catherine. With no teeth in her head her lips flapped when she spoke, that is unless she had it packed with cotton. Dolly and Catherine gathered herbs in the forest every Tuesday so Dolly could stew and bottle her Dropsy cure. People in town bought Dolly’s Dropsy cure, but most of them died of natural causes any way.
Collin lived very well with the sisters and Catherine. He was called a runt in school which angered him and the girls. Every day Dolly would get hold of his feet and Catherine his head and pull. At sixteen he had grown to the height of an average human being.
Everything was going well until Dr. Morris Ritz; a shyster came to town and talked Verena into selling Dolly’s recipe for Dropsy to him. It was the first time anyone had seen Dolly rebuff Verena.
Dolly, Catherine and Collin left Verena’s house and went to live in a tree house. Two huge China trees that grew together had years ago been made into a tree house by winding the limbs together. The tree grew in such a way that steps to the tree house could easily be maneuvered even for Dolly who was a little hippy. They each took all their belongings plus the leavings from Thanksgiving dinner. The adventures that followed, well, you will just have to read this delightful story.
Mr. Capote based this story on his Aunt Sook Falk, another aunt and her servant. This is his second novel. In Cold Blood scared the daylights out of me so I have shied away from Capote books since. This was a mistake I am trying to rectify. The Grass Harp is a collection of his short stories and is delightful. A Christmas Memory is another fantastic story. I agree with one reviewer who said The Grass Harp reminded him of Steinbeck’s Canary Row. Both were very funny stories.