Twenty stories that reflect the late (1924–84) journalist and storyteller’s graceful vacillations among urban horror stories, Southern Gothic local color and melodrama, and limpid memory pieces.
Several previously uncollected pieces are nondescript—though “The Shape of Things” partially anticipates the nightmarish harassment of a college girl by her train compartment-mates in the creepy “A Tree of Night.” The 1949 volume that bears the latter story’s title contained such deservedly famous tales as that of a lonely widow befriended, stalked, and destroyed by the (perhaps nonexistent?) little girl who is her menacing namesake (“Miriam”); the teenaged fiancé besieged by his pregnant sweetheart’s crazy family (“My Side of the Matter”); and a folk-inflected drama of homosexual fixation and possession set on a prison farm (“A Diamond Guitar”). Echoes of Faulkner, Welty, and McCullers abound. But Capote’s mastery of supernaturalism and symbolism create an essential originality seen also in the late (1975) portrait of a society marriage that thrives on adultery (“Mojave”) and the rich fictionalized memoirs “A Christmas Memory” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor.”
Though the late Capote became a pathetic self-caricature, the one who wrote these brilliant stories deserves to be remembered. (Also see Gerald Clarke’s Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote, p. 720.)