Synopses & Reviews
Truman Capote was hailed as one the most meticulous writers in American letters a part of the Capote mystique is that his precise writing seemed to exist apart from his chaotic life. While the measure of Capote as a writer is best taken through his work, Capote the person is best understood in his personal correspondence with friends, colleagues, lovers, and rivals.
In Too Brief a Treat
, the acclaimed biographer Gerald Clarke brings together for the first time the private letters of Truman Capote. Encompassing 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 letter writer who both loved and craved love without inhibition. He wrote letters as he spoke: emphatically, spontaneously, and without reservation. 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, Gloria Vanderbilt, 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 na•f who jumped headlong into the dynamic post—World War Two 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 Capote’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 after that book’s publication. Finally, we see Capote later in his life, as things seemed to be unraveling: when he is 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).
Too Brief a Treat is that uncommon book that gives us a literary titan’s unvarnished thoughts. It is both Gerald Clarke’s labor of love and a surpassing work of literary history.
"Considering Truman Capote's fabled social life, one would think that his private letters would be dripping with juicy gossip. Indeed, with correspondents and friends that included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Cecil Beaton, Christopher Isherwood, David O. Selznick, Tennessee Williams, Audrey Hepburn and Richard Avedon, these bright, energetic missives do include an occasional tasty tidbit. But as candid as Capote can be, one ultimately gets the sense that the author always knew his letters would be read by a wider audience some day, and rarely does Capote express less than bubbling enthusiasm and childlike devotion to his correspondents. It's up to Clarke, Capote's biographer, to fill in the occasionally sordid blanks, which he does in chapter intros and extensive footnotes. Much more profound than any gossip is the humor, sensitivity and ambition with which Capote seems to have approached every experience in his life. and his incredible discipline and passion for writing, spending hours sequestered in some of the world's most glamorous locations, composing the stories and books. This entertaining collection gives us a firsthand account of Capote's journey as he comes into his own as an artist, charting his gradual but inevitable transformation into a literary and society superstar. Readers who want to know more about the real Capote will pick up the author's books (which include In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's) and continue to revel in his wise and whimsical prose. B&w photos not seen by PW. (On sale Sept. 21) FYI: Random House will simultaneously publish The Complete Stories of Truman Capote (including one never-before-published story), edited by Reynolds Price ($24.95, 320p, ISBN 0-679-64316-9)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The flamboyant author's collected correspondence brings him back to life in multiple roles, from teenage gadabout to ascendant literary star to conniving dipso burnout....Fluff, clutter, and flashes of insight into an enfant terrible of American literature." Kirkus Reviews
"Capote's untrammeled personality fairly falls off the pages of these letters, and rather than being irritating, his disregard of reticence is especially poignant in this day of sterile e-mailing." Booklist