Capote: A Biography

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Overview

An American original, Truman Capote was one of the best writers of his generation, a superb and almost matchless stylist. His short stories made him a literary celebrity while still in his teens, and for the next thirty years he was a comet of genius, fame, and finally self-destruction. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, published in 1948, was followed ten years later by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which introduced to the world one of American literature’s most endearing heroines, the irrepressible Holly ...

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Capote: A Biography

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Overview

An American original, Truman Capote was one of the best writers of his generation, a superb and almost matchless stylist. His short stories made him a literary celebrity while still in his teens, and for the next thirty years he was a comet of genius, fame, and finally self-destruction. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, published in 1948, was followed ten years later by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which introduced to the world one of American literature’s most endearing heroines, the irrepressible Holly Golightly. In the 1960s came the phenomenal success of In Cold Blood, a true-crime story whose novelistic techniques have influenced non-fiction writers ever since.

A much-sought-after dinner guest among the rich and famous, Capote reciprocated in 1966 with a party that made headlines, his black-and-white ball at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. The trauma of researching and writing In Cold Blood had shaken him, however, and even as he reached the heights, Capote was beginning a losing battle with drugs and alcohol. In 1975 he published a chapter from an uncompleted novel, Answered Prayers, in Esquire magazine. The unflattering, thinly disguised portraits of some of his rich friends provoked a furious reaction, and the comet that had risen so swiftly fell even faster. Capote died in 1984, just short of his sixtieth birthday.

Capote’s is an astonishing story, and Gerald Clarke’s biography, first published in 1988, tells it in all its many dimensions. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Capote himself, as well as interviews with nearly everyone else who knew him, it is now recognized as a masterpiece of literary art.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Mesmerizing. . . . The book reads as if it had been written alongside the life, rather than after it."
—Molly Haskell, The New York Times Book Review

“A book of extraordinary substance, a study rich in intelligence and compassion....To read Capote is to have the sense that someone has put together all the important pieces of this consummate artist’s life, has given everything its due emphasis, and comprehended its ultimate meaning.”

—Bruce Bawer, The Wall Street Journal

“Engrossing, vivid, beautifully written, a large-scale portrait of the rich and famous. . . This is literary biography the way it should be written, as rich and densely textured as a novel.”

—James Atlas, Vogue

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``In this riveting biography, Clarke, former Time writer, depicts the sad sequence of sparkling achievements and overwhelming despair that marked the life of Truman Capote,'' commented PW . ``Readers will be dazzled both by the life lived and the compelling skill with which Clarke brings it before us.'' Photos. Author tour. (May)
Library Journal
Clarke breaks Capote's life into four sections: a childhood spent mostly with relatives while his self-absorbed parents staggered through their disorderly lives; his years of discovery, when he had the two great romances of his life, traveled the world, and found his voice as a writer; the writing of In Cold Blood ; and the destructive obsessions with drugs, alcohol, and lovers that followed. Clarke's analysis tends to be superficial and his research, though impressive, has gaping holes. He is strongest in his portraits of Capote's first lover, the literary scholar Newton Arvin; the parade of men who disrupted the last 15 years of his life; and Capote's ``swans,'' the very wealthy women who became addicted to his seemingly magic touch. Paradoxically, Clarke fails to produce a full portrait of Capote himself. The chaotic figure will need to be studied from many angles: Clarke provides a point of reference. Rob Schmieder, Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439187500
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/21/2010
  • Pages: 638
  • Sales rank: 595,614
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald Clarke is the author of Capote: A Biography and Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland. He has also written for many publications, including The Atlantic, The New Republic, Rolling Stone, Architectural Digest, where he is a contributor; Time, where he was a senior writer; and Esquire. A graduate of Yale, he now lives in Bridgehampton, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2006

    Outstanding

    I can't believe how fascinating of a life this man lived. What a true american. This work of literature is definitly one of the best in literary history!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2006

    not the movie . . .

    A good biography, but definitely not the movie. This book covers his entire life. By comparison, it glosses over the In Cold Blood years whereas the movie is focused on the In Cold Blood years in much more detail. The endless name dropping is tedious and distracting from the genius of the man, but I guess Capote was a bit of a name dropper and social climber.

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    Posted January 27, 2009

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    Posted March 7, 2012

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    Posted April 23, 2012

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    Posted June 12, 2009

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