Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote

By TRUMAN CAPOTE

In addition to his other notorious addictions, for much of his life Truman Capote was a raging and exacting workaholic, which explains the tremendous output in varying forms included in Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote. One of the few American writers to tackle short and long fiction, nonfiction, plays, film scripts, and reportage, Capote in this volume shows himself to be a hungry and yet tastefully selective observer of human triumphs and foibles. Included here are early impressions of places like New York and Hollywood and a fond but unsentimental reminiscence of his hometown of New Orleans (“no more charming than any other Southern city?. The main portion ?is made up of spiritual bottomland”); portraits of some of the most famous actors of his time, such as Brando, Bogart, and Elizabeth Taylor, even though “the trouble with most actors?is that they are dumb”; and intermittent self-observations, as in the mock interview with himself in which he remarks that if he hadn’t been a writer he “wouldn’t have minded being kept, but no one has ever wanted to keep me — not more than a week or so.” For such a flamboyant figure, Capote’s touch as a writer was light and often subtle, and despite his sad chemical decline, he proves himself here to have had moments of great clarity nearly to the end. -

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