GLR September-October 2022

could not survive the Sixties, when all notions of social status, dress, and proper behavior were up for grabs. The entire culture changed when Capote was supposed to be completing Answered Prayers , but ended up instead in the basement of Studio 54, where a young man Capote groped one night said the words no gay man ever wants to hear: “You’re nothing but a tired old queen.” Studio 54 is also where Halston would provide his friends with cocaine out of one of two pockets in his coat: the cheap stuff and the really good. As Leamer notes with his sly eye for detail, Capote always got the “good,” if that’s the word for it. Leamer’s own explanation for Capote’s inability to write An swered Prayers has nothing to do with writer’s block or the ex haustion he must have felt after In Cold Blood , or the fact that he may have had nothing to say about the swans in the end, or the close of the Fifties. It was simply a literary limitation: Capote was a “miniaturist,” incapable of structuring and sustaining over the course of three thousand pages the sort of narrative that Proust had. Consider the book that Capote did publish after the disaster of “La Côte Basque” in lieu of Answered Prayers : a collection of short stories, a nonfiction novella, and travel pieces called Music for Chameleons (1980). Its introduction compares the fate of the artist (Capote) to a man flagellating himself with his own high standards. But this book feels like the things he used to write for the fashion magazines. Perhaps Capote had just run out of imag inative gas, but Music For Chameleons supports Leamer’s point: that he was, at his best, a poet of small touches—like the scene in In Cold Blood when the killers are finally caught and returned to the scene of the crime and put in jail, as stray cats walk up and down the courthouse square eating scraps of dead birds caught in the grilles of the parked cars—the Capote touch. The truth is that Capote was such a mass of contradictions, there’s something almost Shakespearean in the story presented in Capote’s Women , though Leamer himself belongs to an older tradition, that of Juvenal and Suetonius, exposing the scandals of the rich and powerful. What one is struck by is the insecurity, defiance, malice, and alienation of a sensitive homosexual in times that were far more homophobic than the present, though given the way things are going, one should not be complacent. Capote clearly saw himself as a real outsider. In 1955 he went with a production of Porgy and Bess on a tour of Russia (de scribed in his book The Muses Are Heard ), and years later, in her memoir, Slim Keith describes a moment when Capote is put ting her to bed in their hotel in Copenhagen. “Sleep well,” Tru man tells her, “because I love you, very, very much.” “I love you too, Truman,” replies Keith. “No, you don’t,” Truman replies. And Keith says: “Don’t talk like that—of course I do.” And Tru man, “after a long gaze,” says: No, no, no. You don’t. No one loves me. I’m a freak. You think I don’t know that? I know how difficult it is for people to ad just to what I look like and how I sound when they first see me. It’s one of the reasons that I’m so outrageous. I don’t think any one has ever loved me—maybe Jack. ... But not many other people. I’m an objec t. I’m a centerpiece , not a figure of love, and I miss that. There’s not an awful lot to love. Perhaps that’s why his self-induced sabotage of his friendships with his swans hurt so much. Vidal put it more cruelly: “Truman Capote has tried, with some success, to get into a world that I have tried, with some success, to get out of.” September–October 2022

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