Truman Capote (1924-1984) - original name Truman Streckfus Persons
American novelist, short story writer, and playwright. Capote gained international fame with his "nonfiction novel" IN COLD BLOOD (1966), an account of a real life crime in which an entire family was murdered by two sociopaths. The Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama area provided the setting for much of Capote's fiction.
She took a bite of apple, and said: "Tell me something you've written. The story part."
--"That's one of the troubles. They're not the kind of stories you can tell."
--"Maybe I'll let you read one some time."
--"Whisky and apples go together. Fix me a drink, darling. Then you can read me a story yourself."
(from Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1958)
Truman Capote was born in New Orleans as the son of a salesman and a 16-year-old beauty queen. His father worked as a clerk for a steamboat company. He never stuck at any job for long, and was always leaving home in search for the new opportunities. The unhappy marriage gradually disintegrated, and Capote's parents divorced when he was four. The young Truman was brought up in Monroeville. He lived some years with relatives, one of whom became the model for the loving, elderly spinster in several Capote's novels, stories, and plays. When his mother married again, this time a well-to-do businessman, Capote moved to New York, and adopted his stepfather's surname.
In his childhood Capote made friends with Harper Lee, who portrayed him as Dill in her world famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. "Dill was a curiosity. He wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt, his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him. As he told us the old tale his blue eyes would lighten and darken; his laugh was sudden and happy; he habitually pulled at a cowlick in the center of his forehead." Capote started to write stories when he was only eight. He attended the Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York, and the public schools of Greenwich, Connecticut, but ended his formal schooling at the age of seventeen. He found work at the New Yorker, and attracted attention with his eccentric style of dress.
In 1946 Capote won O.Henry award for his novel Shut a Final Door and published his early stories in quality magazines. His first novel, OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS (1948), depicted a boy growing up in the Deep South. The protagonist falls into a relationship with a decadent transvestite. The book gained a wide success and arose controversy because of its treatment of homosexuality. During this time Capote had already established his fame among the cultural circles as the thin voiced, promising young writer, who could brighten up parties with his sharp and clever remarks.
Next year Capote went to Europe, where he wrote fiction and non-fiction. Among his major works was a profile of Marlon Brando. Capote's travels accompanying a tour of Porgy and Bess in the Soviet Union produced THE MUSES ARE HEARD, which subtly mocked the whole presentation of the play. His European years also marked the beginnings of his work for the theatre and films. In 1949 appeared A TREE OF NIGHT, which gathered together short stories which Capote had published in Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle, and other magazines.
In the 1950s Capote wrote THE HOUSE OF FLOWERS, a musical set in West Indies bordello. Capote's lyrical style, melancholy, and whimsical humor marked his novel THE GRASS HARP (1951), in which a young boy and his elderly cousin defy the conventions of a materialistic society, but also discover that some compromise in necessary in people are to live together in a community. The book was adapted into screen in 1996, starring Piper Laurie, Sissy Spacek, and Walter Matthau. Capote's first important film work was collaboration with John Huston on Beat the Devil (1954).