Finding Capote

I don’t find any old books in this Antiques shop, but at the back of the shop I discover a shelf of discarded books, paperbacks and new Penguins read once and sent away for resale at less than half price. I see the name CAPOTE on the spine of one of these and I pay $4 for it: the Biography of the writer Truman Capote which the biographer, Gerald Clarke took 12 years to write. And what a major re-creation of a life he came up with.

Out of the darkness and bewilderment of a sad infancy and childhood -his early days marked by unsettled parental relationships and his constant fear of their separation –every child’s nightmare which in the end became his reality- he was sent to live in a household of bickering old maid aunts and a silent uncle where his mother left him while she found her own way in the world. It was the very house from which she thought she could escape by making a bad marriage that she condemned him when his feckless father failed to provide for them. There, Truman Capote found pleasure in another world, the world of books; and he wanted to write them. Finding himself a quiet space in that lonely household of individuals who each expressed their frustrations in unique ways, the child, Truman, set himself up with pen and paper and a space to write. His father visited from time to time with bright promises about outings which never eventuated or invariably fell through.

 If nothing is more disappointing to a child than broken parental promises, nothing is more utterly devastating than parental abandonment. The disturbance this caused the child was inevitable and showed in his character for many years to come, not to mention in that strange voice of his which locked him forever in childhood.

But out of this muddy pond of instability in which he floundered all through his childhood and for years after that, there bloomed the lotus of his luxuriant prose. It became his self-imposed job from day to day to fill a blank page with words. Nothing else mattered but his determination to become a writer. It wasn’t only about happiness, or in his case, about happiness at all. It was simply about doing something that mattered to himself, something that made him feel good.

More to come.