Family

It was brought to my attention recently in the course of a conversation with a friend that John Berger, the Arts Writer who wrote Ways of Seeing, had written a novel. In it he had used a family tragedy concerning his daughter-in-law. This resulted in his son’s estrangement from him.

Although I am uncertain about the accuracy of this statement, it still gave me an insight into the negative reactions I might expect to the writing of an essay on the death of a relative. Many would agree that it is unacceptable to use one’s family’s tragedy in one’s writing; it shows little consideration. It shows insensitivity.

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Gentleman or artist

It is very hard to be a gentleman and a writer –Somerset Maugham 

My promise to write the final blog on Truman Capote Gentleman or Artist came to a standstill when I was summoned for jury duty this month, and the further away I got from the subject the more difficult it became to pick up the threads and continue weaving the story of Truman Capote to its tragic end.

At first I thought of writing a short dissertation in defence of art based on Somerset Maugham’s words: It is very hard to be a gentleman and a writer. But it wasn’t as easy as I imagined because in a civil society that licence really does not exist. Secondly, whoever heard of a short dissertation? It’s a contradiction in terms; the subject at hand being too wide.

So the next best thing I thought might be to relate the circumstances of Truman Capote’s end. 

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Losing Capote: Unexorcised Demons

Ironically, the downward slide of Truman Capote, the brilliant young genius who with the publication of In Cold Blood made it to international fame, began soon after its publication. Still in his mid-twenties and with no formal academic background, he had invented a new form of non-fiction writing.

“Journalism” he said, always moves along a horizontal plane, telling a story, while fiction –good fiction, moves vertically, taking you deeper and deeper into character and events.” And so, to write compelling non-fiction, a writer must be “in control of fictional techniques”. Unless a journalist learns to write good fiction he would not be able to handle real events with fictional techniques.

Truman didn’t have to learn to write good fiction: it was in his blood; it was something he was doing for almost as long as he could write

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Perceiving Truman

Perceiving Truman

My reading of Truman Capote’s biography continues. I’m a slow reader who has been forced to become a very slow reader. I have to shut the book after 15 minutes and close my eyes to prevent the assault of print and light from causing a burning sensation in my eyes

Yesterday the ophthalmologist while complimenting me on my excellent health, very discreetly let go of the word ‘Glaucoma’. He then wrote me a prescription for some eye drops. Clutching my prescription as if it was a cheque for a hundred dollars, I hurried out the door no questions asked. Then, in my  semi-blinded state–because of the eye drops they instil into your eyes to dilate the pupils and to confuse you a little so you won’t panic at the diagnosis- I hailed the wrong bus.

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Finding Capote

Finding Capote

Of the Canterbury Road and below the railway line is Maling Road. Narrow and tree-lined, it runs the length of the shopping centre like an old back road. It is flanked by cafes and shops with generous cast iron verandas which encourage ambience and window shopping.

I was after old books. I was looking out for books that were hand made, cloth or hide bound; battered books which have been held in their lifetime by a hundred hands or several times a day for hundreds of days by a single pair of hands. An old book doesn’t have to be a hundred years old, but it has to create a spark of recognition simply by being what it is. Your heart skips a beat when you find one. Its beauty is in its history.

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