Which Truman Capote do you know? The author who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood? The life of the party and confidante of New York socialites? The host of the famous 1966 Black and White Ball in New York? The frequent guest on The Dick Cavett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and The Mike Douglas Show? He was all of these.
Truman Capote (1924 – 1984) was an American author who wrote fiction, nonfiction and plays. Capote had a big personality and loved to mingle and gossip with high society. A flamboyant dresser with eccentric taste, Capote was open about his homosexuality. He was also a serious writer, dedicated to his craft.
Capote was born in New Orleans. His father was a con-man and his parents separated when he was a toddler. He spent his early years with relatives in Alabama, where he became childhood friends with Harper Lee. When Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, she based the character, Dill, on Capote. Friends for life, Lee would later help him with his research for In Cold Blood.
Capote’s mother remarried in 1933, moved to New York, and Capote joined them. Even with his mother in New York, he felt lonely and abandoned and spent much of his time inventing stories, knowing for certain he would become a writer.
As an adult in New York, Capote worked for the New Yorker and wrote several stories for Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published in 1948 and is a semi-autobiographical account of coming to terms with his sexuality.
In Cold Blood, the story of a Kansas family murdered in 1959, won critical acclaim and marked the peak of Capote’s success. It was at this point when he began a life of excess, much of which is documented on his talk show appearances. Capote died at age fifty-nine, leaving behind a great collection of work for modern readers to study.
Selected other works by Truman Capote:
The Grass Harp (1951)
A Christmas Memory (1966)
House of Flowers (1968)
Answered Prayers: the Unfinished Novel (1987)
Check out these memorable talk show appearances!
Truman Capote on Dick Cavett in 1971, with Groucho Marx Part 1
Truman Capote on Dick Cavett in 1971, with Groucho Marx Part 2
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is an excellent fictionalized account of Capote and his famous socialite swans.
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