Synopses & Reviews
Truman Capote was one of the most gifted and flamboyant writers of his generation, renowned for such books as Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany's
, and his masterpiece, the nonfiction novel In Cold Blood
. What has received comparatively little attention, however, is Capote's last, unfinished book, Answered Prayers
, a merciless skewering of cafe society and the high-class women Capote called his "swans." When excerpts appeared he was immediately blacklisted, ruined socially, labeled a pariah. Capote recoiled--disgraced, depressed, and all but friendless.
In Tiny Terror, a new volume in Oxford's Inner Lives series, William Todd Schultz sheds light on the life and works of Capote and answers the perplexing mystery--why did Capote write a book that would destroy him? Drawing on an arsenal of psychological techniques, Schultz illuminates Capote's early years in the South--a time that Capote himself described as a "snake's nest of No's"--no parents to speak of, no friends but books, no hope, no future. Out of this dark childhood emerged Capote's prominent dual life-scripts: neurotic Capote, anxious, vulnerable, hypersensitive, expecting to be hurt; and Capote the disagreeable destroyer, emotionally bulletproof, nasty, and bent on revenge. Schultz shows how Capote would strike out when he felt hurt or taken for granted, engaging in caustic feuds with Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, and many other writers. And Schultz reveals how this tendency fed into Answered Prayers, an exceedingly corrosive and thinly disguised roman a clef that trashed his high-society friends.
What emerges by the end of this book is a cogent, immensely insightful portrait of an artist on the edge, brilliantly but self-destructively biting the jet-set hands that fed him. Anyone interested in the inner life of one of America's most fascinating literary personalities will find this book a revelation.
"Capote has always been a riddle wrapped in an enigma. When I interviewed Capote over the last three years of his life, he always amused, and sometimes confused. He told me stories with a straight face and earnestness which I accepted as truth-- his truth-- only to discover other versions of the same story later on. So, what to make of Tiny Terror? Schultz has gone a long way in this brief book to show us how complex, how complicated, how intriguing, and how mystifying Truman Capote was. His work lives on. His character continues to be defined." -- Lawrence Grobel, author of Conversations with Capote
"A probing, ground-breaking analysis of seemingly inexplicable twists and turns in the life of Truman Capote. Schultz skillfully uses contemporary personality theories to show how Capote's innate personal qualities and excruciatingly painful childhood experiences combined to produce exceptional works of art. Beautifully written, the book will grip you like a mystery novel." -- Phillip R. Shaver, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis, and co-author of Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change
"A fascinating analysis of the complexities of Capote's relationships with different sides of himself, with the two murderers he wrote about in In Cold Blood, and with the elite social world he turned savagely against in Answered Prayers."-- William M. Runyan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Life Histories and Psychobiography
"Schultz, a master psychobiographer, constructs in vivid prose a convincing, multifaceted interpretation of Capote's work and his 'consistently inconsistent' personality. The culmination of 25 years spent studying the infamous author, this work also suggests directions for future theorizing and research in personality psychology." -- Nicole B. Barenbaum, Professor of Psychology, Sewanee, The University of the South
"A fascinating, erudite deliberation." --Kirkus Reviews
"Deftly disassembles the nuts and bolts of Capote's mucky psychology...As Mr. Schultz shows in this enjoyable guide through the fetid swamp of the author's psyche, [Capote] was destined to remain a slave to his infantile impulses." --The Wall Street Journal
"A remarkably insightful book." --Book Chase
"Schultz has a captivating style and an insightful way of summarizing a fascinating life in short chapters in a slim volume...smart, well-written, with a fascinating subject." --Creative Loafing Atlanta
Truman Capote was one of the most gifted and flamboyant writers of his generation. He's well known for his first two books, Other Voices, Other Rooms and Breakfast at Tiffany's, and for his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, which most critics called a masterpiece of artistic reportage. What has received comparatively little attention, however, is Capote's last, unfinished book, Answered Prayers, a merciless skewering of cafe society, of the high class women Capote befriended and called his swans. When excerpts appeared he was immediately blacklisted, ruined socially, labeled a pariah, a traitor. Capote recoiled--disgraced, depressed, virtually friendless. In Tiny Terror, William Todd Schultz, one of the world's most esteemed psychobiographers, examines the perplexing Answered Prayers mystery. Through the use of findings from recent attachment research as well as script theory, Schultz unpacks Capote's early years in the South, his relationship with his doomed, self-obsessed mother Lillie Mae, and his infinitely colorful childhood in Monroeville, Alabama, where he was raised by eccentric, spinsterish aunts. Particular personality patterns are identified, sets of attachment-related strategies that persisted into adulthood and determined much of what Capote did, felt, said, and wrote, including Answered Prayers. What emerges is a cogent, immensely insightful portrait of an artist on the edge, brilliantly but self-destructively biting the manicured jet set hands that fed him. Was Truman human, the literati wondered? He was, according to Schultz, all too human in fact. But he burned, too, his final years a numbed miasma of drugs and alcohol, from which he never recovered.
About the Author
William Todd Schultz, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Pacific University in Portland, Oregon. Over the past two decades he's written numerous psychobiographical articles and book chapters, on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, Roald Dahl, James Agee, and Jack Kerouac, among others. He is editor of the Handbook of Psychobiography
, published by Oxford University Press in 2005.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Consistently Inconsistent Consistency
Chapter 2 - A Snake's Nest of No's
Chapter 3 - Leaving the Boy Behind?
Chapter 4 - The Mind of a Murderer
Chapter 5 - Frying Fancy Fish
Chapter 6 - Preparations for the Scaffold of a Personality Portrait