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Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers (Inner Lives) Hardcover – April 29, 2011
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"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 volume...smart, 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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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.)
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. Too much booze and too many pills: isn't that the downfall of many celebrities? You don't have to repeat it dozens of times. That's all you need to say. "Capote was an unhappy homosexual who destroyed himself with pills and booze." You don't need to write a whole book about it, just one sentence.
I wish the author had dealt with Capote's long and complicated relationship with Jack Dunphy. That might have explained a lot about why the booze and pills prevented him from completing "Answered Prayers."
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.
This was, however, only one side of the man's personality. Capote convinced himself that he was beyond caring what others thought of him, especially those whom he felt were using him simply as an oddity or amusement. He was determined to strike first at those he sensed were laughing at him or taking him for granted. Rather than allowing himself to be hurt, Capote defended himself with a nasty, pre-emptive strike in which he would take his revenge on others before they could hurt him more than they already had.
In the case of his "swans" and Answered Prayers, as Schultz puts it, "Capote died a sad, lonely death. In some ways he scripted it. He never expected to be loved; he expected to be dismissed, and he was in the end. He made it happen...Even the swans flew off, to the sound of Capote's buckshot."
William Todd Schultz has written a remarkably insightful book that fans of Truman Capote's work are sure to appreciate. Even those who only knew or remember Capote as a fascinating late night guest on talk shows of that era are certain to see him in a new light - and wonder how they could have missed so much suffering on display as they laughed along with his television host.