TRUMAN CAPOTE by George Plimpton


In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career
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 Less a literary convocation than an A-list gab-fest, this volume is filled over the brim with three things Capote cared deeply about: gossip, name-dropping, and himself. An oral biography (on the lines of Plimpton's Edie) may seem superfluous for someone as relentlessly self-publicizing as Capote. Over the course of this conversational parade of witnesses to his sensational career, however, the familiar figures of the elfin young author of Other Voices, Other Rooms and the aged, substance-abusing author of the socialite-scourging Answered Prayers are shattered, or at least chipped away at, by the sheer variety of impressions, anecdotes, and reminisences about an inarguably remarkable, mercurial individual. Despite the recycled high points--arm-wrestling Bogie during Beat the Devil, going head-to-head with Norman Mailer on television, etc.--a multifarious, almost Proustian characterization emerges. Naturally there are the characteristic detractions of Gore Vidal and Mailer (``A ballsy little guy. But . . . those balls got swollen''), the slightly apologetic approbations of Carol Marcus and Joanne Carson, and innumerable opinions in between, from the likes of John Knowles, William F. Buckley, Kurt Vonnegut, the detectives from In Cold Blood, his betrayed jet set, and Plimpton himself. Plimpton has adroitly edited this mass of eyewitness accounts, conflicting testimony, and hearsay into a fairly complete narrative with a seductive aura. Only occasionally does he gloss over extended unpleasantness, such as the depths of Capote's destructive affair with John O'Shea, a married suburban banker; but he also gives space to smaller voices, including the strangely fond account by O'Shea's daughter Kerry (rechristened Kate Harrington by Capote for her teenage modeling career) of the avuncular Pygmalion figure in her life. Capote's flamboyant, fascinating life as related by other voices, other views. (60 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-23249-7
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997


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