Thursday, October 05, 2006

Summer Crossing, by Truman Capote


Amazingly, this novel was left out in the trash for collection by Capote. Even if he wasn't that impressed with it, as a juvenile work, you'd think that an author would want to hang onto personal literary embarrassments, as time and effort did go into their creation, and they are afterall an integral part of the author's personality, like it or not.

There's an interesting afterward by Capote's lawyer and friend, Alan U. Schwartz, which gives some personal memories of Capote, and explains the process by which he came to the decision to publish the novel, even though he knew Capote never intended it be published.

What a fascinating character Capote was. A sporadic author who was completely burnt out by his late fifties. Drugs and drink did him in. He died having lost many of his friends - and his mind. Doctors treating him for drug and alcohol addiction warned him that he had only months to live unless he reformed. When Alan U. Schwartz pleaded with him to get back into rehab Capote grabbed him by the arm and said, 'Please, Alan, let me go. I want to go.' A complete burnt out in his fifties, he would die before reaching 60.

The novel itself was written when Capote was 19. He apparently tinkered with it over the following decade. While it must be accepted that it is a literary curiosity, never intended for publication, and that there are obvious flaws in the novel, it does show what an extraordinary talent Capote was. Dorothy Parker said, Boy, can he write. She was spot on. And Norman Mailer, an author who you can't help but think of as the complete antithesis of the effeminate Capote (remember how Mailer punched someone at a party because he was wearing a pink jacket?), decreed Capote the best writer of his generation.

His prose truly astonishes. It seems a thing not studied or strived at, but coming out of nowhere, like something newly born in the world. I loved this for example:

'Of many magics, one is watching a beloved sleep: free of eyes and awareness, you for a sweet moment hold heart of him; helpless, he is then all, and hower irrationally, you have trusted him to be, pure-man, child-tender.'

I'm not an afficianado of Capote's work, so I can't really say where it stands with the rest of his work, although come to think of it I have read some of the major novels, Other Rooms, Other Voices, In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

If for nothing else, you should read Summer Crossing to discover how the best prose is written by an aboslute natural.

One last note. The main character's sister is named Apple. Is this why Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their daughter Apple?

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