|"I won't respect you unless you tell the whole truth."|
—Truman Capote to Gerald Clarke
Gerald Clarke comments about Truman Capote and the movie, Capote
Praise for Capote
"In this work of prodigious research gracefully presented, Mr. Clarke, who had his subject's confidence during the last years, gives Capote what the writer himself, in a last grand, gutsy gesture, declare he wanted: a book in which nothing, nothing at all, was left out. Mr. Clarke, a former senior writer at Time magazine, makes us take a longer look at Capote than I, for one, ever thought I wanted to take, and the result is mesmerizing, a fine-tuned balance—unusual for an author so immersed in his subject—of empathy and dispassion. The book reads as if it had been written alongside the life, rather than after it, like a car following a train, the driver picking up passengers as they alight, always catching the right people at the right time."
"Haven't we heard enough about Truman Capote?...Is there anything more to know about [his] life, and is there any reason for us to care? The wonder of Gerald Clarke's 'Capote: A Biography" is that, after reading it, one can't help but answer these questions with a resounding 'yes.' Mr. Clarke has taken on a subject whose life we are used to reading about in the most sensational and superficial terms and has produced a book of extraordinary substance, a study rich in intelligence and compassion...
"Heartbreaking though it is, one can't put the book down. Few literary biographies in recent memory have been so vivid and absorbing, so gracefully composed and artfully structured. To read 'Capote' is to have the sense that someone has put together all the important pieces of this consummate artist's life, has given everything its due emphasis, and comprehended its ultimate meaning. In short, Mr. Clarke makes one feel at last as if one really understands Mr. Capote...."
"It's probably impossible to write a bad book about Truman Capote, but
Clarke has written a masterpiece...What Jimmy Breslin said in his review of
In Cold Blood—'And suddenly there is nothing else you want to read'—is
the way I felt about this astonishing work."
"'Capote' the biography is more than worthy of Capote the man. The book transcends gossip, falling short of tragedy only to the extent that Capote himself fell short of greatness. It is an old story in American letters, never told better than here."
"Clarke was writing what his subject never could...a book that lives up to expectation. Capote is engrossing, vivid, beautifully written, a large-scale portrait of the rich and famous: everything Answered Prayers aspired to be...This is literary biography the way it should be written, as rich and densely textured as a novel...For all its delight in low gossip, Capote is a book that resonates with the grave, inexorable power of tragedy."
"Let it be said at the outset that the reviewers are quite right: Clarke has done a terrific job on a complex and difficult subject. He is thorough, scrupulous and fair."
"...Gerald Clarke's fascinating and well-written biography..."
"An exceptionally satisfying biography of Truman Capote...."
"Readers will be dazzled both by the life lived and the compelling skill with which Clarke brings [the book] before us."
"This is a biography that is faultlessly constructed. You simply cannot stop reading it...Capote is a superb portrait and a shrewd critical evaluation...."
"Stylistically and in terms of rigour of research, this turns into one of the most absorbing literary biographies to come out of America in the last 20 years...I have little but praise for Clarke's book. It is a remarkably full record of a fascinating but frightening life."
"Gerald Clarke worked on his book for more than nine years. No sweat
or strain shows in the text, no impatience or fatigue. What the labour has produced is a deft and perfect assurance: we know Clarke knows what he is doing. He spent much time with Capote, and seems to have spoken to everyone who knew him, which was everyone. But Clarke is neither charmed no spooked. He isn't shocked. He doesn't grind any axes. He doesn't even conclude. He just tells his detailed story to the end. There is a school of thought which holds that this is not now enough for biography. I am inclined to believe that, for narrative biography at least, anything else is too much."
"Start reading this splendidly constructed, very moving, often funny book of Gerald Clarke's and you won't want to set it aside. It is compulsive reading, with all the tenacity of a good novel and the incredibly researched detail of a thorough biography."
An Excerpt from Gerald Clarke's Afterword for the paperback edition of Capote
If he had known how long In Cold Blood would take—and what it would take out of him—he would never had stopped in Kansas, Truman Capote later wrote. He would instead have driven straight through—"like a bat out of hell." Midway through writing his biography, I sometimes said much the same. How much more serene my life would have been, I muttered, had I said hello and goodbye to him in the same breath. When I began, I supposed I would devote two years to Truman's life, three at most; I actually spent more than thirteen. I envisioned a relatively short book; without notes, it is 547 pages. I though writing Truman's biography would be something of a lark, in short. It was, in fact, one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. And one of the most exhilarating.
One of my predictions did come true. Most of our interviews took place in pleasant spots, often over lunch or dinner at one or another of Truman's favorite Manhattan restaurants. Sometimes lunch faded into cocktails, then into dinner. One winter day I arrived for lunch and did not leave—I was not allowed to leave—until the restaurant closed twelve hours later. Every time I got up to go Truman would grab my arm, begging me to stay.
By coincidence, Truman and I both had country houses, not more than five minutes apart, on eastern Long Island, and we were thus also able to talk under shady trees, on cool porches and in and out of swimming pools. It was while he was floating on a raft, for instance, that Truman gave me a rundown, complete with verbal footnotes, of the real-life models for his characters in "La Côte Basque," the story that made him a pariah to most of his rich and social friends.
"Truman, they're not going to like this," I warned him.
"Nah, they're too dumb," he said. "They won't know who they are."
I was right about the reaction of his friends, though I had not imagined the venom with which they turned on him. But I was wrong about nearly everything else. For what I had not realized—what Truman himself did not know—was that, about the time I started work, he was beginning the long and dramatic decline that ended only with his death. And I became a part of that never-ending drama. As a writer, I had always kept myself in the background. Now I was pulled on stage to become one of the dramatis personae, a participant in the turbulent life of which I was writing. It was as if I were painting a portrait and suddenly saw myself peering out from the background—and wondering, to judge from the perplexed look on my face, how I had got myself into such a predicament…."
© 2006 Gerald Clarke
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