28 November 2007

Other Voices Other Rooms



It has occured to me that it has been awhile since I did a "This Day In History". For the most part this day was not really, really exciting: Magellen made it to the Pacific, A NASA satellite flew by Mars, there was a bad fire that killed a whole lot of people and Truman Capote threw a party to honor Katherine Graham and celebrate the success of In Cold Blood.

Now the "Black and White Ball" has gone down in social history as one of the best events ever. Apparently If you were a SOMEBODY who knew a whole lot of other SOMEBODIES, then you got an invite. It was a sentence to Siberia or Outer Darkness to not be included. Capote apparently threw as much effort into it as he would have a small novel and spent most of the summer writing and rewriting the guest list while dangling the possibility of an invitation in front of friends and enemies. Should you be fascinated by all this hobnobbing of the great and near great enjoying the privileges of wealth and notoriety, there is an excerpt of a nice bit of gossipy fluff written by George Plimpton with quotes by all sorts of Truman's friends and whatever they were.

If you look at my "About Me", there is a mention that one of my favorite books is the beloved by many, To Kill A Mocking bird by Harper Lee. If you saw the recent movie "Capote" with the Academy Award winning performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, then you found out about his lifelong friendship with Harper Lee. He based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on her. He in turn was the inspiration for the character Dill, in Lee's 1960 bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner.

After a long career producing some of the most fascinating material ever written, Capote trailed off into a multi-year, self destructive round of drugs and alcohol often making very witty appearances on TV talk shows often under the influence of one or both of these addictions that eventually caused his death in 1984. My one and only encounter with Capote was in 1978 viewing him all alone in a nook of the bar of the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, slumped drunkenly over a glass. As always when you see someone with such an addiction, all you can think is "What A Waste" and then go read everything he wrote so that you can remember what was great about the man.

"He mistook the rich who liked publicity for the ruling class, and made himself far too much at home among them, only to find that he was to them no more than an amusing pet who would be dispensed with, as he was when he published lurid gossip about them."

Gore Vidal

9 comments:

RebelliousRenee said...

Jamie....
I had never read In Cold Blood, but decided to read it before seeing the movie Capote....

it was fascinating, horrific, and oh so well written....

that quote by Gore Vidal is priceless....

Linda said...

Why is it that so many people who have such wonderful gifts like writing skills or painting or singing or such end up at the bottom of a glass or misusing drugs? Is fame that hard to accept? Is that the price for having such a talent to begin with? It boggles the mind ...

This Eclectic Life said...

While I enjoyed In Cold Blood, I never enjoyed watching Capote on talk shows. Something about the man seemed so vain and petty. Was it the alcohol and drugs talking?

Jamie said...

It was the alcohol, the drugs, and probably some bit of his deep southern background that never quite came to terms with his homosexuality.

I only saw him the one evening I mentioned, but from friends who knew him he was a mixed bag. He could be very sweet and a wonderful friend. He could also be spiteful and mean.

Travis said...

I was unable to finish In Cold Blood the book, but I did watch the film.

His fascination with the murder and the murderers was fascinating, if that makes sense.

D.K. Raed said...

I just caught that Capote movie on TV the other night. I really never knew too much about his personal life, just that he was brilliant & flamboyant. I was touched by how personally invested he became in his stories, how he struggled to get it right. And yes, his friendship with Harper Lee was interesting. So he was Dill, huh? actually, that is perfect.

Matt-Man said...

A very well-written bittersweet post. Cheers Jamie.

dog's eye view said...

What Matt said. Capote was not the only with writing talent.

Other Voices, Other Rooms was one of my favorite books; such a find. Will have to reread it; do not recall anyone but narrator and Aunt Sook. (The name of my next beagle.) Am I on drugs too? She was in there, wasn't she?

Jamie said...

She was in The Grass Harp and A Christmas memory. I don't remember if she was in Other Voices Other Rooms, but it was autobiographical so the probability is high.

Just checked and it doesn't seem that she is there at least not by that name.