Truman Capote courtesy of the Biography YouTube Channel
CAIRO – 30 September 2017: September 30 marks the birth of celebrated American novelist Truman Capote, best known for writing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In True Blood”, which, alongside many of his stories, have been adapted for the big screen.
Capote was born in 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents divorced when he was still quite young, and they had mostly neglected their son, leaving him to be raised by others.
Capote’s friend from childhood was none other than Harper Lee, famous for having written “To Kill a Mockingbird”. She based the character of Dill in the book off of Capote, and she valued his creativity.
Though he didn’t do well at school, Capote was liked by his classmates for his writing skills, and he eventually managed to get a job while still a teenager for The New Yorker, though it was just as a copyboy. When he left to pursue his own writing career, Capote had begun working on a novel titled “Summer Crossing”; although he scrapped it for a his collection of short stories that would eventually make him a known name.
In 1945, Capote’s short story “Miriam was published in the magazine Mademoiselle, becoming Capote’s first published piece of work. He won the O. Henry Memorial Award a year later, which wouldn’t be the only time he would win it. His other short stories, “A Tree of Light”, “My Side of the Matter” and “Jug of Silver”, were later picked up by the editor for Harper’s Bazaar and helped establish Capote’s career in literature.
He later released his first novel, “Other Voices, Other Rooms”, in 1948 – a tale of a lonely, confused boy searching for love from his parents when he dealt with his confused sexuality, something based off of Capote’s own sad childhood. Capote himself found love with fellow author Jack Dunphy in that same year, and their relationship lasted for nearly 40 years.
One of his most famous stories, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, was published in 1958 in Esquire Magazine. This tale of a New York City party girl named Holly Golightly proved to be such a success that it was adapted into a major motion film in 1961, starring Audrey Hepburn in the lead role. Capote had hoped that Marilyn Monroe could have been in the film. The film won two Oscar awards.
Capote’s writing would take a darker turn as he went to work on his next novel, inspired by his interest in journalism and a shocking real life crime – the massacre of a family in Kanas in 1959. “In Cold Blood” originally started as a series of articles in The New Yorker, first published in 1965, with the novel adaptation being released the same year.
Capote spent six years personally interviewing the two men behind the crime, helped by his childhood friend Harper Lee. Truman’s work covering the story helped inspire the “true crime” genre and also put him at the top of the emerging New Journalism movement. The book became a massive success, receiving its own film adaptation in 1967. However, Capote had been left traumatized by his time researching such a dark crime. He had begun to drink and experiment with drugs, leading him down a bad path.
His future writing would fail to be as famous as what came before, and his growing substance abuse put a damper on his output. Capote still pushed on, holding a massive ball in 1966 called the “Black and White Ball”, which attracted the attention of numerous famous individuals and featured a dress code of black and white outfits and masks. However, Capote had used the ball’s events as part of his personal favorite novel, “Answered Prayers”, a satire on the upper-classes that spilled a lot of dirt on some of his famous friends. When a chapter of the book was published in Esquire in 1976, Capote had turned a lot of people against him.
Capote would never live to finish the book, however. Focusing on partying instead, Capote’s last novel, “Music for Chameleons”, collected several essays, short stories and non-fiction pieces, and was published in 1980. The success of the book didn’t help Capote’s personal issues, as his health and addiction problems were only worsening.
He died in Los Angeles at the age of 59 on August 25, 1984 in the home of his Hollywood friend Joanne Carson.