Top positive review
Truman Capote 101 For Amateur Capote Fans
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2021
Don't misinterpret my title as dismissive. It isn't. What I mean to say is if you are new to Truman Capote and his work, or you don't know about his history, this is the book for you. It will answer all the questions you may have about who he was, how he got where he did as a writer, how he lived, whom he knew, and how he survived until he self-destructed.
As a Savannah Belle, I became a Capote fan early in my teens. After his death, I lamented there wouldn't be another Truman until Dominick Dunne came along. But he was not as biting and amusing.
It is sad to realize that all of the men and women Mr. Leamer writes about are gone. What a list!
This is about Truman warts and all. No doubt he could be charming, sweet and attentive, but he could be just the opposite if he didn't value you. Living in Manhattan (NYC) as long as I have I have met men (famous writers) who felt the sting of the Scorpion if they shaded him in any way in public. Sadly, I never got the chance to meet him but certainly wanted to.
My now-grown daughter learned to read at an early age because we were livning on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and had no television to amuse us. We returned to the States when she entered first grade. Two weeks after she started I received a call from the principal of her school asking how on earth this first grader was reading at an 11th Grade level? She was stunned. She told me about how the class had been introduced to the school library that day and the children were to choose a children's book of their choice. Those kids who could not read were asked to give it to mom or dad to read to them.
She said my daughter wandered around the library totally bored. She said her teacher brought her a book and asked if she would like to read it. My daughter replied, "No, that's OK. I have one at home I'm reading." Curious, the teacher asked her what it was and she said matter-of-factly, "Oh, it's Truman's latest." Truman? President Truman? What Truman? Jessica looked at her and said, "Capote. His new book." That was when she went to the prinicpal to ask that she call me to verify if this was true. Yes, it was. She never went back to the Children's Library again. She was allowed in the senior high section for her reading material.
This book was well researched and provided personal material about some of the Swans I was not aware of. Some of it was recycled stories from decades ago, but with a new twist. That is why I say if you don't have a real familiarity with Truman Capote, this is your book.
One very glaring error came on Page 280. Mr. Leamer writes: "Jackie had divorced Ari, returning to New York a rich divorcee with a fortune..." OMG! How on earth did that pass the scrutiny of the editors?! She returned to New York City a widow, once again. They never divorced. Maybe this will be removed when the paperback edition comes out. This mistake cost the book a Star. Without this faux paux it would have rated Five.
All the usual suspects are here: Harper Lee, Jack, C. Z., Babe, Slim, Pamela, Stas, Marella, Gianni, Peter Beard, Joanne Carson, Capote's Mom and step-dad, Gore Vidal et al. All gone, but immortalized in all Capote's biographies.
None of his antics and bad moves can erase the brilliant writer he was and the books he left us to savor and treasure for decades to come. The only question is: How will future generations see him as a first-rate writer and want to read his works? Only time will tell.
The last chapter talks about how, even after his death, Truman was not allowed to rest in peace. His ashes were divided by Joanne Carson (he was at her home when he died) and half given to his long-time lover, Jack, and she kept the other. Shocking information is given about the remains of British actor, Peter Lawford, who was married to one of the Kennedy sisters. It appears his family did not keep up the payments on his crypt and his ashes were dumped (excuse me) scattered into the Pacific Ocean and Truman's remains were ensconsed there. How the former mighty have fallen. Lawford was a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack back in the 60s and a household name.
This is a timely book and should be read by readers in their younger years from 20 to 50. It is, as I say in my title, a primer and introduction to a fascinating man and writer.