Review

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote

by Truman Capote



It has been just over twenty years since Truman Capote --- the
controversial and tiny, child-voiced man of a mega-writer who needs
no introduction --- left this life, yet his work still resonates
with the deadly Southern charm of making love to a sexy stranger
during a sudden summer downpour.


A reader must make his or her own way in these lonely Alabama and
Louisiana evenings, accompanied by diamond guitars, lost ladies,
circus freaks, childhood bullies, soda shops, society types,
emerging sexualities, bad parents, great Christmases, train rides,
fearful hidings, fatal romances, poverty, big city scams, eccentric
artists, identity issues, and the broken American dreams that
populate the twenty eerie stories in this collection.


It is in the early autobiographical stories, published in ladies'
magazines between 1943 and 1956, when Capote was first flexing his
muscles as a fiction and journalistic talent, which offer an
inspirational yet heartbreaking glance into the author's early
years. From rural Mobile to spectacular New York, Capote repeatedly
employs the devices of the weathered mink that must be sold, the
beautiful guitar that calms the savages, the alluring yet dangerous
stranger, and, most importantly, the creative prison every artist
endures at the hands of a planet mismanaged by religion,
accountants, gossip, brutes and thieves.


It is the realization of imprisonment without parole or escape ---
a theme the author would lustfully follow until his greatest
nonfiction success, IN COLD BLOOD, and his greatest failure,
addiction to fame and drugs --- that Capote most poignantly
explored in his pre-diva years. It was a hungry, optimistic young
writer headed for New York who created "The Shape of Things,"
"Miriam," "My Side of the Matter," "Preacher's Legend," "The
Headless Hawk," "Master Misery" and "A Diamond Guitar."


In "The Shape of Things," from 1944, two women and a soldier on a
train are the polite captives of a second, disheveled,
drunk-appearing soldier who is headed home after wartime experience
and the unmentionable shellshock. Meanwhile, the title character of
Miriam enters a widow's house and mind, and refuses to leave. In
"My Side of the Matter," from 1945, a narrator resembling Capote
himself becomes a prisoner to a wife and her family. "Master
Misery" steals and imprisons the dreams of fragile New York
émigrés. Preacher, an old Southern black man, becomes a
prisoner in his own home at the mercy of two hunters appearing as
saints. The diamond guitar is the showpiece of a man in
prison.


In addition to the savagely bared souls of each character, it is
the richness of the musical writing that seduces and even teaches:
"In the country, spring is a time of small happenings happening
quietly, hyacinth shoots thrusting in the garden, willows burning
with a sudden frosty fire of green, lengthening afternoons of long
flowing dusk, and midnight rain opening lilac; but in the city
there is the fanfare of organ-grinders, and odors, undiluted by
winter wind, clog the air; windows long closed go up, and
conversation, drifting beyond a room, collides with the jangle of a
peddler's bell."


Up to the final story from 1982, the invisible prison theme is
carried through most tales in the collection, yet is untouched by
Reynolds Price, the respected Southern author who provides an
all-too-brief introduction (just six pages [with one that includes
Price's half-page biography], which fail to mention several of the
most important stories) to this volume. Price irresponsibly
laments, "America has never been a land of readers," a trite
complaint embraced by a publishing world that always forgets the
country has more readers, libraries, bookstores, and Internet book
sales than nearly any other on earth.


Also, much to the chagrin of any dedicated bibliophile, missing is
a list of where these stories first appeared; instead there is a
useless list of copyright dates. To remedy the problems, readers
are advised to seek OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS, Capote's first
novel, as well as CAPOTE by Gerald Clarke and TRUMAN CAPOTE by
George Plimpton, both fine and revealing biographies of the
writer.


While later editions of this startling and romantic must-have
collection could be smartly pared of Price's seemingly
dashed-off-at-the-last-minute introduction (he actually compares
Hemingway's fame to Capote's), and enhanced by proper publishing
credits, this book serves as, to today's literary marketplace, the
unseen Capote --- a number of beautiful stories published decades
before Capote was at his best, an exciting introduction to a career
unmatched in talent and literary impact.


   


















Reviewed by Brandon M. Stickney on December 28, 2010

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote
by Truman Capote

  • Publication Date: September 21, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 0679643109
  • ISBN-13: 9780679643104