The Early Stories of Truman Capote


Random House 2015

Foreword by Hilton Als

Received the above book, as delivered hotfoot by Amazon this Saturday afternoon. These stories by Truman Capote have just been discovered.

My previous reviews of Truman Capote works are linked from HERE.

When I real-time review this book, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above…

14 thoughts on “The Early Stories of Truman Capote


    …as this writer begins, ironically?

    A touching story of a man and a naive youth, Capote then and later, as boy and country slicker, a retrocausal relationship, one with fried bacon — travelling together, the youth carefully preserving his money so as to not let his Ma down. Touching, because a true man is a true man through and through, then and now, man and boy, I guess.


    “That was the only trouble with this damn smoking; it hurt the ulcers in her mouth.”

    If I am not mistaken, this is a budding classic story, fully deserving to be in the Capote canon. It is an anguished story of snake poison, mouth ulcers, and a touch of instinctive love amid a moment of buying something in the store near the lake where weekenders gather to sun-bathe and fish, a moment between the woman who’s trying to survive by recently getting this store job (who, in hindsight, we know, knows about the snakes having fished them herself accidentally from the lake), and a little girl who thinks the woman stares too much at her. A moment of guilt and sacrifice, and unrecognised, but instinctive, hard-faced love between two human beings, extended beyond its own moment as one is forced to continue thinking about what happened in such striking language.
    (Interesting to compare the man and youth in the previous story who follow a different but co-resonant audit trail of relationship.)

  3. HILDA

    “Well I don’t know, Sir. I thought I would like to be an actress.”

    She is asked to see the school head at the end of the day – and this is an effectively scary portrait of being accused of something as well as being in inexplicable denial as a child. A trauma of a soon-to-be-fulfilled paranoia that has lain unconscious or dormant beneath an inscrutable surface of self.
    The unexpected motivations of the man in the first story, as if he, too, was still such a naive child? Like being gratuitously stared-at as felt by the girl in the second story?
    I am wondering if Hilda is a premonition of Holly?
    And why the edges of the pages in this stylish hardback are rawly cut, with a delicious frisson of tactility?


    “She seemed too old to be alive – it must be terrible to be that old.”

    Almost artless with its sudden change of point of view, but eventually perfect in its knowhow to break rules and express callow emotions, like all these stories so far. Belle unselfconsciously broke rules, too, like Hilda, scaring ‘negroes’ but essentially, I infer, being their friend, and also counterintuitively refusing large amounts of money for her Japonica trees. No consistency, except age, and then beauty in death. A lesson for us all.


    As if prefiguring the boy who left home in ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’, Capote started here that scenario from the viewpoint of one he left behind, a sixteen year old girl in denial about future memory loss by their Proustian selves detached from their colonised or impassioned past. It is highly poignant puppy love, though, today, as she waits for his visit to say goodbye and, eventually, impatient and set against her parents’ command not to do so, she leaves the porch swing so as to go meet him, not halfway between their houses, but set on going all the way to his house…


    “…yet she felt that there was someone staring at her, following her every move.”

    …like the MILL STORE stare story? A continual sense of wanting to to do the best in the worst of all circumstances, as one woman betrays another, for her own good or in a sense of justice – or both? It’s as if God is staring at us ever waiting for us to do the right thing,


    “All right. O.K. But tell me — what part of the woods have they already covered?”

    …asks the hunted convict, echoing a similar question in similar circumstances in the previous story. This suspenseful page-turning story about two boys together and then separate, as they play at hunting the convict in the woods, but meet more of this book’s bites from swamp snakes called moccasins and worse… And the most shocking and surprising ending that you will go far to meet.
    The unexpectedness of mind and its traumas and a yearning for self-honesty, like Hilda et al?


    “She was proud that she was still alive while they lay cold and still in their graves.”

    The ‘they’ that the old lady reads about regularly in the local paper’s obituary columns, people she once knew during an as yet endless life living in the same house and remembering building up the fire in its fireplace every morning. Flames that dance “mincingly” at the tantalisingly open end of this story.
    An effective and chilling ghost story of a visitation, a story that deserves to be anthologised as such, I feel – while still lingeringly summoning up some new ‘fireplace’?


    A striking story that deals with a girl’s school, the jealousy of one girl Elthel for the popularity and beauty of another Louise, and the ways and means of the former in ‘outing’ the latter…
    Just as omniscience is withdrawn suddenly in this story, when Ethel imparts the incriminating information about Louise to a teacher, I shall withdraw my own omniscience about reading this story. No plot spoilers In my reviews. Except I do wonder if it is significant that miscegenation is associated with a character whose surname is Semon.
    Meanwhile, the story’s ending is another open-ended one that resonates on and on in the head.


    “…his mother and father came to say good night. His mother was dressed in a long flowery evening gown and she had flowers and perfume in her hair. He loved the smell of gardenias, so pungently sweet.”

    There is something Proustian about Capote, as we read about this boy who visits the park with his Nanny and meets the mother of another boy called Jamie with Jamie’s dog Frisky. Jamie is sick so can’t come to the park himself. A tale of boyish counterintuitive naivety (cf this whole book’s counterintuition), of kindness and poignant loss. Charmingly, sadly memorable.

  11. LUCY

    “…there was just the trace of a tear gleaming in the exquisite blackness of those negro eyes.”

    A touching and sometime sublimely felt slice of life as Lucy, a ‘colored’ woman from the South, comes awestruck to New York to work as housekeeper in the boy narrator’s home, at first fast buddies, then she has a beau, then gets homesick…
    Has the poignancy of losing Jamie earlier, whose existence was never proved. It was almost as if Lucy had never been, either. Except for the film stars left behind and whose existence the boy imagines Lucy boasting to her Mama about meeting, boasting when she gets back to Alabama.


    At first I thought this was a legal tontine, but one going backwards in line with the chapter numbers going backwards. But in fact it’s patterned upon a Beethoven String Quartet. One of the Opus 18 set, I guess, not a late one!
    This is young Truman extending his experimental range.


    A lethally, hilariously, sharply, strikingly pointed conversation between two high-class women about their respective husbands – reminiscent of Elizabeth Bowen as blended with Ivy Compton-Burnett. Would-be tontine widows, I say!


    “I’m gonna stay right here until I get the whole story.”

    An apt title and an apt quote from the story with that title, by ending the book. A story of Sally Lamb who sits in an Algebra lesson imagining her future as a starlet like Marilyn Monroe or as a top-flight journalist on her own Titanic mission, such a mission which ends all our lives eventually or one we never reach by being eternally youthful in timeless literature like Truman’s.
    The ultimate tontine story both in substance and by use of Algebraic methods?
    A tontine for the whole gamut of words that was, then, still left for you to reap. Reap and read. Other voices, other rooms, old days, new days, whatever our failings.


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