TRUMAN CAPOTE: The Story of His Bizarre Boyhood by an Aunt Who Helped Raise Him by Marie with James C. Simmons Rudisill

TRUMAN CAPOTE: The Story of His Bizarre Boyhood by an Aunt Who Helped Raise Him

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not nearly as tasteless as that National Enquirer-style subtitle might suggest, this memoir by Capote's Aunt Marie actually has little about Truman in it--but quite a bit about his parents and the relatives he grew up with (some of whom appear in his fiction). Brief, rather charming chapters lotus on: tough matriarch Cousin Jenny, a Reconstruction child who reacted to her plantation-family's bankruptcy by carving out her own little dry-goods empire in Monroeville, Alabama, and provided the big house for her siblings and her wee orphaned cousins (Truman's aunts and mother Lillie Mae); Jenny's wispy, eccentric sister Sook--the dropsy-medicine-making soulmate familiar from The Grass Harp and other portraits; and Jenny's brother Bud, the bachelor-farmer who ""had a greater capacity for love than any of his sisters"". . . and carried on an easy, matter-of-fact liaison with black housemaid Corrie. These were the three who did most of the raising when beautiful Lillie Mae--a vain, sexy, rebellious, selfish sort--married ne'er-do-well Arch Persons for his social position, bore Truman, and dumped him in Monroeville so she could pursue the high-life in New Orleans. (Lillie Mae's real lifelong passion was for an Indian named Tecumseh.) As for Aunt Marie, she was more a big sister than a parent: she offers a few mild anecdotes about precocious, perverse little Truman and his playmate Harper (To Kill a Mockingbird) Lee; she corrects some of Truman's exaggerations about his childhood. And she was Truman's sometime-baby-sitter in N.Y. when Lillie Mae divorced Arch, married Cuban gent Joe Capote, reclaimed Truman, and headed north: ""At first Lillie Mae worked seriously at her responsibilities of being a mother, but she soon lost interest,"" later condemning Truman's homosexuality--and after her suicide in 1954 he ""turned away from his Southern background"" and all members of the family. No surprises--and, considering Capote's declining literary position, not much importance--but a neat slice of Southern Gothic, with a few engaging sidelights and angles for readers of The Grass Harp, A Christmas Memory, and The Thanksgiving Visitor.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow