Capote: A Biography (Books Into Film)

Capote: A Biography (Books Into Film)

Gerald Clarke

Language: English

Pages: 636


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

One of the strongest fiction writers of his generation, Truman Capote became a literary star while still in his teens. His most phenomenal successes include Breakfast at Tiffany’s; In Cold Blood; and Other Voices, Other Rooms. Even while his literary achievements were setting the standards that other fiction and nonfiction writers would follow for generations, Capote descended into a spiral of self-destruction and despair.

This biography by Gerald Clarke was first published in 1988—just four years after Capote’s death. It was the basis for Capote, the 2005 film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won an Academy Award for his performance.

Clarke paints a vivid behind-the-scenes picture of Capote’s life—based on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with Capote himself and the people close to him. From the glittering heights of notoriety and parties with the rich and famous to his later struggles with addiction, Capote emerges as a richly multidimensional person—both brilliant and flawed.


Gerald Clarke graduated from Yale as an English and American Literature major. After a short stint at Harvard Law, he turned to journalism and wrote for Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Republic, and Esquire, among others. As the Show Business writer for Time, he interviewed some of his generation’s most famous people—including Mae West, Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas, and George Burns.

Intrigued by the working habits and creative genius of other writers, he began a series of in-depth profiles of famous authors—such as Allen Ginsburg, Gore Vidal, P.G. Wodehouse, Vladimir Nabokov, and Truman Capote. His profile of Capote became a full-fledged biography—with Clarke serving as a witness to the final ten years of the author’s life.

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saw how artful James had been. He did everything by allusion and indirection. I made only one mistake. At the very end, when the governess sees the ghost of Miss Jessel sitting at her desk, I had a tear fall on to the desktop. Up until then it wasn’t clear whether the ghosts were real or in the governess’ mind. But the tear was real, and that spoiled everything.” Few of the critics agreed. “A beautifully turned film,” said the New York Herald Tribune reviewer, “one of the most artful hauntings to

purposes, had received no formal education. Truman’s reading had been wide, certainly, but so scattered and haphazard that he had missed entirely many of the standard works of literature familiar to any graduate of a good liberal-arts college. Many of his friends, who had that advantage, were often amazed, as well as amused, by how open and naive he was in expressing his ignorance. Andrew Lyndon recalled going with him to Radio City Music Hall to see the movie version of Great Expectations.

and many others that year, two weeks in England was more than enough: in 1948 London was a depressing city, gray, dowdy and dispirited. Stringent rationing was still in effect, good food was all but impossible to find, and to conserve electricity, theaters raised their curtains at seven o’clock; by ten o’clock the streets were all but deserted. Victory over Germany had not brought the expected surcease to Britain’s privations, and the whole country seemed pervaded by a mood of hopelessness and

money and lobbying in his behalf. “All your friends are with you, of that you can be sure,” wrote Truman, who was living in Europe. “And among them please do not count me least; aside from my affection, which you already have, I will be glad to supply you with money should the need arise. This is a tough experience, and must be met with toughness: a calm head, a good lawyer.” Though he was hard pressed himself at the time, Truman delicately, and rather disarmingly, repeated his offer of financial

heavy-lidded eyes, decked out for the Rue Jacob: the inevitable blue jeans which are the trademark today of intellectuals from across the Atlantic, a gray tweed raglan covering an argyle sweater, a raspberry scarf which accentuates his pale complexion. Disheveled blond locks cover, or uncover, the forehead of a thinker.” The author who had informed American readers that he had danced on a riverboat could not resist giving his biography a still further fictional twist for the French: his ancestors

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