Capote

My wife and I saw Capote last night. It was everything I hoped it would be: superbly acted, beautifully written, acutely intelligent, and by turns despairing. In other words, a mirror of Capote’s life. Lord what a talented but lonely dude. Who wouldn’t have been lonely, with his particular traits, appearance, and of course that voice. Not his fault, just who he was.

Emotionally his upbringing was a disaster: from New Orleans to Monroeville, AL to New York. His ever-partying mother didn’t know what to do with him, let alone how to love him. His dad split on him young. His stepfather–Capote–tried to reach out to him somewhat. His only stable years were with an emotionally unstable aunt in Monroeville, when he lived next to Harper Lee; hence the character Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird. Such geniuses, both.

In Cold Blood. Holcomb, Kansas. The Clutter Family, Alvin Dewey, Dick Hickock, and Perry Smith. I know that region well; my father and I hunted pheasant there each fall in the 60s. I’ve passed through it countless times since. Capote knew, by instinct, that a great story awaited him there. Amazing how he fit into the town, was eventually accepted, and then began to assemble the pieces to his book, falling in love with Perry Smith in the process, drawing him out, then watching as he was later hung. Five-year journey. In a way, it broke him emotionally.

Then the unparalleled success of the book, worldwide. But I don’t think he was ever able to really enjoy it. Tried too hard to keep up with the rich; didn’t understand the importance of real love, real friendship; couldn’t keep his mouth shut at the times that he needed to. Spent all the money, and wound up broke and alone as his substance abuses slowly killed him, finally dying at a friend’s house in LA, no longer able to afford a home of his own. The friend, Joanne Carson, was an ex-wife of Johnny Carson–on whose show he so often appeared.

Literature, like all the arts, is littered with such tragedies. But by god he gave us some great stories while he was alive–against such enormous odds. The dude sure had guts.

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