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Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote Paperback – September 13, 2005
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is divided into 3 sections. If you are familiar with Truman, then you will understand my reference in saying that the three sections are pre-Kansas, Kansas, and post-Kansas. In the first section, we see Truman working on pieces for magazines, various essays, his first book, Breakfast at Tiffany's, plays, and screenplays. He writes from Yaddo, and eventually after meeting Jack Dunphy most of his letters are written from overseas. There's lots of gossip, famous name dropping, mention of other authors, feuds and travel. Truman writes to friends and colleagues and his letters are always cheerful and full of love (often signed with what I used as the title of my review).
The largest section is composed almost entirely of letters written while Truman was working on In Cold Blood. Here, we see Truman growing older and anxiously waiting five years for Smith and Hickock (who committed the Clutter murders) to be executed so that he can write the end of his book. It's obvious from his tone how much this project absorbed him. He writes countless letters to the Dewey family, who befriended him in Kansas and helped him with research. He even gives their son writing advice. Not one single letter to Harper Lee though throughout this time which I found sad. He also writes to Perry Smith in prison, and his tone to Smith is much different than when he mentions him in letters to others!
Finally, the last section where the letters get smaller (thanks in part to the telephone). Truman writes of his rehab problems, a car accident, and several literary feuds he had with other writers and their lawyers. We find Truman in the states more often and spending less time with Jack. There are quite a few letters to Jack in the last section. A sad cable to Jack closes the book in the early 80s. Truman died in 1984.
Being one sided, and we as a reader are eavesdropping, it takes a lot of patience to keep reading. I was never bored though, never skipped around. It definitely gave me better insight to this man who I have admired for so long, and made me want to pick up his short stories and reread them. There are wonderful and numerous footnotes throughout; Clark does a great job of explaining who is who or what is happening. For anyone who is a fan of TC or just a fan of letters anyway, I highly recommend this book!
Plus the attention to detail that he gave his friends, and his terms of endearment , are enough for me. Not a perfect human being c/o alcoholism and gossip.
But a great American mind who could have the greatest tact and charm under pressure. I say get it and add to your collect...take it out once in a while when you
have the "mean reds". We were lucky to have him.
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. Cecil Beaton and Christopher Isherwood were also frequent correspondents, but again, very little gossip.
The letters do show that Capote was obviously a very compassionate man and despite his biting wit and bitchy persona, they reveal a warm and caring man.