Truman Capote

From Academic Kids

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Truman Capote by Harold Halma, 1948. The photo created a sensation when it appeared on the book jacket of Capote's first published work, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Truman Capote (September 30, 1924August 25, 1984) was an American writer.

He is best known for his "nonfiction novel" (a phrase he himself coined to describe journalism with a literary voice) In Cold Blood and the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, both of which were adapted into movies. He wrote a childhood memoir called A Christmas Memory that he adapted for television and narrated. His television films made him famous.

He was born Truman Streckfus Persons in New Orleans, Louisiana and was sent to Monroeville, Alabama to be raised by his mother's relatives. In 1933, he moved to New York City to live with his mother and her second husband, Joseph, who adopted him and renamed him Truman Garcia Capote in 1935.

Capote was a lifelong friend and rumored lover of Monroeville neighbor Harper Lee, and was allegedly the inspiration for the character of Dill in her best-seller To Kill A Mockingbird. Capote frequently implied that he himself had written a considerable portion of her novel, but some say he ghosted the entire novel. At least one person - Pearl Kazin Bell, an editor at Harper's - has gone on record as believing his assertions were true.

Lee lent Capote considerable assistance during his research for In Cold Blood. The book was inspired by a November 1959 300-word article in the back of the New York Times describing the unexplained murder of a family of four in rural Kansas. Fascinated by the brief story, Capote traveled to Holcomb, scene of the Clutter family massacre, with Lee, and over the course of the next few years he became acquainted with everyone involved in the investigation and most of the residents of the small town. Rather than taking notes during interviews with those involved in the investigation, Capote and Lee would commit everything to memory and write it down after the interview was over. Prior to the book's publication, Capote was well-known in literary and theatrical circles, but In Cold Blood introduced him to a mass audience worldwide when it became an international best seller. He was widely criticized for his admission that he was relieved the killers had been given the death penalty, since had they not it was likely the book would never have been published.

Capote was as well known for his high-pitched, lisping voice, outrageous manner of dress, and wild fabrications about acquaintances and events as he was for his literary output. He often claimed to know intimately people he had in fact never met - among them, Greta Garbo - and professed to have had numerous liaisons with men who were staunchly heterosexual. He traveled in eclectic circles, hobnobbing with fellow authors, literary critics, business tycoons, philanthropists, Hollywood and theatrical celebrities, and members of royalty and high society, both in the States and abroad. Part of his public persona was a long-standing rivalry with writer Gore Vidal.

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Tallulah Bankhead and an unidentified guest at Capote's famous Black & White Ball, photographed by Henry Grossman, November 28, 1966
On November 28, 1966, in honor of publisher Katharine Graham, Capote hosted his famous Black & White Ball in the Grand Ballroom of New York City's Plaza Hotel. It was considered the social event of not only that season, but of many to follow. Its notoriety was such that even the usually austere New York Times gave it considerable coverage.
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Capote in his later years
He appeared as Lionel Twain in Neil Simon's film comedy Murder by Death. A short story published in Esquire in the 1970s, part of his never completed work Answered Prayers (published as an "unfinished novel" after his death), alienated most of his celebrity acquaintances, who in it recognized thinly disguised versions of themselves.

In later life, Capote became fairly reclusive, most likely as a defense mechanism against the rejection from one-time friends he was experiencing. On those occasions he was seen in public, he frequently exhibited wildly eccentric behavior, due to his addiction to alcohol and various drugs - both prescription and recreational - despite several attempts at rehab.

He died on August 25, 1984 in the home of Joanne Carson, ex-wife of deceased late-night TV host Johnny Carson, on whose program Capote was a frequent guest. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, leaving behind his longtime companion, author Jack Dunphy, with whom he shared a non-exclusive relationship from the time of their first meeting in 1948. Dunphy died in 1992 and, in 1994, both his and Capote's ashes were scattered at Crooked Pond, between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor on Long Island, close to where the two had maintained a property with individual houses for many years.

Capote twice won the O. Henry Memorial Short Story Prize and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

In 1990, Robert Morse played Capote in the one-man show, Tru, for which he received both a Tony Award and an Emmy.

Published and other works


Truman Capote, In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, by George Plimpton (published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Doubleday, 1997), is an outstanding collection of first-hand observations about the Capote de:Truman Capote es:Truman Capote eo:Truman CAPOTE ja:トルーマン・カポーティ pl:Truman Capote


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