Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Answered Prayers" by Truman Capote (Vintage)

Why I picked up what some consider to be Truman Capote's worst work is to this day a mystery to me.  I was at Alias East Bookstore on Brand, and I had $7 more credit.  Due that I didn't want to hold on to a credit in my pocket for the next week or so, decided on this as a mood purchase.  Also I recently got back from New York City, and I wanted to read something 'classic' from Manhattan aesthetic.  My understanding is that "Answered Prayers" was a novel that Capote never finished, but talked about consistently on TV chat shows, and through the print media.  He was consistently late in delivering the final manuscript to his publisher, and some thought, for awhile at least, that this work doesn't really exist.  Perhaps due to his alcohol/drug dependance of the time, or plain old writer's block.

Once he did publish an excerpt of the book, a chapter called "La côte Basque," and hell opened up to him and swallow him and his book.  The controversy was that he based this story on real people, even including their real names.   Society pretty much threw him, as well as literary critics.  Keep in mind the only other book I read by Capote was "Breakfast at Tiffany's" a novella that did nothing for me.   So, I read "Answered Prayers" thinking it will be a slighter version of the inferno, but alas, it was a pure joy.

One, Capote's really bitchy and funny, and two, he is a remarkable stylist as a writer.  I may have trouble with him as being a narrative type of writer, but for someone like me who enjoys a good sentence or two, Capote is my guy, for now.  Also I have a deep respect for gossip being part of social history.  Gossip may or may not be true, but it speaks a greater version of truth in the narration that is history.  Capote attempted to capture the genius of Marcel Proust, but I think he failed.  But what he did capture was a moment in time, and a time that was very much Capote's last stance in that world.  Surely he knew that once he writes this, he will never be part of that world again.  Is that what happened to "Answered Prayers?"  Nevertheless this is an excellent document of life in Manhattan for the few, and luckly Capote is one of the few to capture that series of moments.
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