Capote: A Biography

Gerald Clarke, Author Simon & Schuster $22.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-22811-8
In this riveting biography, Clarke, former Time writer, depicts the sad sequence of sparkling achievements and overwhelming despair that marked the life of Truman Capote. Between the publication of his short stories in the late 1940s and the success of In Cold Blood in 1966, Capote, Clarke demonstrates, was a supreme writing talent and an intimate of the rich and famous ``swans''Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Lee Radziwillwhose names, with his, filled the gossip columns. But the uneasy stability of that glittering schizophrenia crumbled with pressures brought on by years of researching and writing In Cold Blood. His complex relationships with Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers whose crime he detailed in that book, drained him; witnessing their executions seemed to destroy his emotional equilibrium. The last 20 years of his lifehe was 59 when he died in 1984were shattered by a series of debasing love affairs, and he was haunted by the reawakened demons of a lonely Southern childhood. In Clarke's sad portrait, Capote fatalistically succumbs to alcoholism and drug addiction, as if he felt compelled to kill himself. Unable to concentrate on Answered Prayers, he became paralyzed by fears of failure. There are plenty of juicy stories in the booknot only about Capote but also his gossip about friendsand Clarke painstakingly recreates both the highs and the lows of Capote's life without judgment, foreshadowing the decline with contemporary comments from the letters and journals of friends who were unsettled early on by his eccentricities. But Clarke seems to acknowledge that, as unflinchingly close as he is able to bring us to the man and the writer, there always will be an unfathomable mystery behind the willful decline and fall. Readers will be dazzled both by the life lived and the compelling skill with which Clarke brings it before us. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Vanity Fair; BOMC featured alternate. (June)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1990
Release date: 08/01/1990
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