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TINY TERROR by William Todd Schultz


Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers

by William Todd Schultz

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-19-975204-1
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Schultz (Psychology/Pacific Univ.; editor: Handbook of Psychobiography, 2005) plumbs the machinations behind Truman Capote’s literary self-sabotage.

In this slim, potent second installment in the publisher’s Inner Lives series, the author eschews the delivery of straightforward biographical facts. Rather, he astutely dissects the inspirations behind Capote’s last, unfinished roman à clef, Answered Prayers, a scorching, sensationalistic tell-all about his “filthy rich” friends, whom he dubbed “swans.” Schultz considers these scathing chapters (several were published in Esquire magazine in 1975–6) as Capote’s final self-defining moments, in which he deliberately “bit down hard on the smooth, socialite hands that fed him.” Curiously, the author acknowledges that the whereabouts of the complete manuscript has become the stuff of legend, if Capote did indeed finish it at all. But “why tattle on trillionaires?” Schultz ponders, as he mines the conception and execution of the author’s literary accomplishments: the ill-fated Answered Prayers, the “homosexual fantasia” of his debut Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and his controversial blockbuster masterpiece of American crime, In Cold Blood. He questions why such a hardworking, respected writer would denigrate and systematically betray the privileged circles with which he’d become so ingrained. Was it Capote’s “insecurely attached” childhood, the effects of personal deterioration brought on by a dependence on drugs and alcohol, or had these social luminaries truly slighted him? In contemplating Capote’s many behavioral motivations, Schultz’s lucid academic discourse never shames the author for penning such “pseudonym-free, scorching dismissals” that skewered folks like Jackie and Joe Kennedy, Cole Porter and Ann Woodward, but instead paints the author with compassion as a troubled literary burnout bent on vengeance, lashing out at whomever came closest to him.

A fascinating, erudite deliberation.