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Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman…

Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote

by Truman Capote

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"In Too Brief a Treat, the biographer Gerald Clarke brings together for the first time the private letters of Truman Capote. Spanning more than four decades, these letters reveal the inner life of one of the twentieth century's most intriguing personalities. As Clarke notes in his Introduction, Capote was an inveterate correspondent who both loved and craved love without inhibition. He wrote letters as he spoke: emphatically, spontaneously, and passionately. He also wrote them at a breakneck pace, unconcerned with posterity. Thus, in this volume we have perhaps the closest thing possible to an elusive treasure: a Capote autobiography." "Through his letters to the likes of William Styron and Gloria Vanderbilt, as well as to his publishers and editors, his longtime companion and lover Jack Dunphy, and others, we see Capote in all his life's phases - the uncannily self-possessed naif who jumped headlong into the dynamic post-World War II New York literary scene, and the more mature, established Capote of the 1950s. Then there is the Capote of the early 1960s, immersed in the research and writing of his masterpiece, In Cold Blood. Capote's correspondence with Kansas detective Alvin Dewey, and with Perry Smith, one of the killers profiled in that work, demonstrates the writer's intense devotion to his craft, while his letters to friends like Cecil Beaton show Capote giddy with his emergence as a flamboyant mass-media celebrity following In Cold Blood's publication. Finally, we see Capote later in his life, as things seemed to be unraveling: disillusioned, isolated by his substance abuse and by personal rivalries. (Ever effusive with praise and affection, Capote could nevertheless carry a grudge like few others.)"--Jacket.… (more)



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Again with my obsession. Reading these letters was a treat. Capote agonized over every word in his published work, so it was fun to read things he just tossed off as if he was chatting to a friend (which he did mostly by letter for many, many years). The letters reveal a kind, loving soul; not the impression one would get if one only knew about his rather wild later years. Many of the letters are gossipy, many are poignant enough to break your heart.

Books like this also make me sad, in a way, that technology has changed. I mean, who's going to want to read "The Collected E-mails of So-and-So"?

I do strongly recommend this book for Capote devotees.

Some of my favorite bits:

pp. 45,46, from a letter to Robert Linscott (his editor): I am working on the book and it is really my love and today I wrote two pages and oh Bob I do want it to be a beautiful book because it seems important to me that people try to write beautifully, now more than ever because the world is so crazy and only art is sane and it has been proven time after time that after the ruins of a civilization are cleared away all that remains are the poems, the paintings, the sculpture, the books.

p. 54, from a letter to Leo Lerman: If it were not for N. and you and my friends I would never come home. Not that I think it is so much better here, it is merely that I am better. Or maybe that is only because so far I don't understand the meanings of things too well, and am therefore not disturbed, as I would be at home, by the look of a child's face, a tone of voice, an accent, the quality of light in a street: nothing connects with memory, reverberates: do you see what I mean, how nice it is not to be pursued by desperate knowledge?

p. 102, from a letter to Andrew Lyndon: A copy of The World Next Door has reached me; have you tried to read it? Every now and then there are some good things in it--but I've never had the patience to pick raisins out of pudding--and God knows he writes a pudding prose, weak, lazy, hurried.

p. 123, from a letter to Leo Lerman: ...and I've got a start on the book that all along I should've known was the one possible book for me--because it really is mine. There is always such a tragic tendency to disregard what is one's own--just as we are often nicer to strangers than we are to our friends.

p. 398, from a letter to Alvin Dewey III: One cannot be taught to write. One can only learn to write by writing--and reading. Reading good books written by real artists--until you understand why they are good. I'm quite sure you have never done this; and you must.

p. 404, from a letter to Alvin Dewey III: However, you go out of your way to find an odd or long word, where a simpler one would do. Most beginning writers do this--apparently under the impression that good writing is fancy writing. It isn't. Strive for simplicity--the plain, everyday word is usually the best. It is how you arrange them that counts. ( )
  jennyo | May 26, 2006 |
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