Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers

Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers

by William Schultz
     
 

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Truman Capote was one of the most gifted and flamboyant writers of his generation, renowned for such books as Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and his masterpiece, the nonfiction novel In Cold Blood. What has received comparatively little attention, however, is Capote's last, unfinished book, Answered Prayers, a merciless skewering of cafe society… See more details below

Overview

Truman Capote was one of the most gifted and flamboyant writers of his generation, renowned for such books as Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and his masterpiece, the nonfiction novel In Cold Blood. What has received comparatively little attention, however, is Capote's last, unfinished book, Answered Prayers, a merciless skewering of cafe society and the high-class women Capote called his "swans." When excerpts appeared he was immediately blacklisted, ruined socially, labeled a pariah. Capote recoiled--disgraced, depressed, and all but friendless.
In Tiny Terror, a new volume in Oxford's Inner Lives series, William Todd Schultz sheds light on the life and works of Capote and answers the perplexing mystery--why did Capote write a book that would destroy him? Drawing on an arsenal of psychological techniques, Schultz illuminates Capote's early years in the South--a time that Capote himself described as a "snake's nest of No's"--no parents to speak of, no friends but books, no hope, no future. Out of this dark childhood emerged Capote's prominent dual life-scripts: neurotic Capote, anxious, vulnerable, hypersensitive, expecting to be hurt; and Capote the disagreeable destroyer, emotionally bulletproof, nasty, and bent on revenge. Schultz shows how Capote would strike out when he felt hurt or taken for granted, engaging in caustic feuds with Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, and many other writers. And Schultz reveals how this tendency fed into Answered Prayers, an exceedingly corrosive and thinly disguised roman a clef that trashed his high-society friends.
What emerges by the end of this book is a cogent, immensely insightful portrait of an artist on the edge, brilliantly but self-destructively biting the jet-set hands that fed him. Anyone interested in the inner life of one of America's most fascinating literary personalities will find this book a revelation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Capote has always been a riddle wrapped in an enigma. When I interviewed Capote over the last three years of his life, he always amused, and sometimes confused. He told me stories with a straight face and earnestness which I accepted as truth— his truth— only to discover other versions of the same story later on. So, what to make of Tiny Terror? Schultz has gone a long way in this brief book to show us how complex, how complicated, how intriguing, and how mystifying Truman Capote was. His work lives on. His character continues to be defined." — Lawrence Grobel, author of Conversations with Capote

"A probing, ground-breaking analysis of seemingly inexplicable twists and turns in the life of Truman Capote. Schultz skillfully uses contemporary personality theories to show how Capote's innate personal qualities and excruciatingly painful childhood experiences combined to produce exceptional works of art. Beautifully written, the book will grip you like a mystery novel." — Phillip R. Shaver, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis, and co-author of Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change

"A fascinating analysis of the complexities of Capote's relationships with different sides of himself, with the two murderers he wrote about in In Cold Blood, and with the elite social world he turned savagely against in Answered Prayers."— William M. Runyan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Life Histories and Psychobiography

"Schultz, a master psychobiographer, constructs in vivid prose a convincing, multifaceted interpretation of Capote's work and his 'consistently inconsistent' personality. The culmination of 25 years spent studying the infamous author, this work also suggests directions for future theorizing and research in personality psychology." — Nicole B. Barenbaum, Professor of Psychology, Sewanee, The University of the South

"A fascinating, erudite deliberation." —Kirkus Reviews

"Deftly disassembles the nuts and bolts of Capote's mucky psychology...As Mr. Schultz shows in this enjoyable guide through the fetid swamp of the author's psyche, [Capote] was destined to remain a slave to his infantile impulses." —The Wall Street Journal

"A remarkably insightful book." —Book Chase

"Schultz has a captivating style and an insightful way of summarizing a fascinating life in short chapters in a slim volume...smart, well-written, with a fascinating subject." —Creative Loafing Atlanta

Library Journal
In this amalgam of literary criticism and psychological insight on the life and work of Truman Capote, Schultz (psychology, Pacific University; editor, Handbook of Psychobiography) focuses on Capote's last, unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, a searing roman à clef, which, after Capote authorized excerpts to be published in Esquire magazine, left him estranged from his "swans"—the high-society women who were formerly his most loyal friends and supporters. Using the technique of psychobiography, i.e., referring to selected biographical details to look at the why rather than the who and what, Schultz draws convincing evidence from Capote's life and written work to form a plausible theory of why he would create such a vindictive and self-destructive work of art. VERDICT This book will be most useful to those with academic and or historical interests in American literature, psychology, queer studies, or popular culture. There may also be a more general secondary audience among readers of Capote's fiction.—Alison M. Lewis, Coll. of Information Science & Technology, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199831937
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/01/2011
Series:
Inner Lives
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
352,205
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

William Todd Schultz, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Pacific University in Portland, Oregon. Over the past two decades he's written numerous psychobiographical articles and book chapters, on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, Roald Dahl, James Agee, and Jack Kerouac, among others. He is editor of the Handbook of Psychobiography, published by Oxford University Press in 2005.

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