A work of literary archaeology that reckons, in a roundabout way, as Capote’s debut—save that he put it aside to work on Other Voices, Other Rooms, and this elegant, brief novel was lost.
Lost, literally, for when Capote abandoned Brooklyn for better things following the publication of In Cold Blood—or so the story goes—he left a trunk containing the manuscript of Summer Crossing behind. Someone rescued it, and now it is the world’s to enjoy. Capote, at his best, was nearly unbeatable; here, young but already with a jaded worldview, he peeks behind the upper-class curtain separating young Grady McNeil from the rest of the universe. Grady is only 17, but she’s advanced for her years—considering, after all, that this is 1947 or thereabouts, so soon after the war that her parents feel compelled to sail to their home in Cannes to make sure it’s still there. “And shop; of course we’ll shop,” adds her mother, very much to the palace born and with her priorities firmly in place. Grady wishes to sit this trip out: She has discovered the wonders of Broadway and its “pearl-eyed perfumed Negroes, those men, silk- or sailor-shirted, toughs or pale-toothed and lavender-suited, those men that watched, smiled, followed.” And though vaguely engaged to an upper-class twit who turns out to be not so bad, Grady is now sleeping with a war veteran who—she is very surprised to learn—is Jewish. Clyde Manzer is all business, a kind of Stanley Kowalski without the table manners; he likes Grady, but not much. Suffice it to say here that their romance ends badly—in fact, on a note out of Reefer Madness.
A wonderful discovery for the scholars, who will find Capote in possession, in his early 20s, of a confident voice and fine storytelling skills. But Capote is for readers, and here they will find a pleasing—if surely dated—entertainment.