Haunted by Capote

Sometimes I’ll start reading a book, and I’ll know it’s important for my own writing in some way. I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to figure out why a given book matters — all I know is that it does. I mention this because I’m reading one of those books right now, Gerald Clarke’s Capote: A Biography. I don’t know what it’s feeding or why; I just know that the Girls in the Basement are lapping it up. It’s full of something — maybe Truman Capote himself — that they’re going to make use of.

I know this is happening when I get the sense that something deep in my mind, where the words don’t go, but the ideas come from, is humming in response to the book. It also makes me aware of parts of my mind I don’t normally feel, as if sleeping things have awakened. I can’t be more specific than that because I believe these are the things you don’t look at too closely; if you do, the magic will die, and then where will you be?


I borrowed Capote from the library because the recent movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman was based on it. I finally saw the movie on Sunday, and it made me want to know more. I can’t say I loved the movie — love isn’t the right word. Neither is “admire” — that suggests an intellectual response, and my response wasn’t intellectual. The main idea of the movie — that writing In Cold Blood destroyed Capote — horrifies and haunts me. He wrote a great book, but when he was done, there was nothing left, and he lived for 20 years after that.

I want to write something great, but I don’t want it so badly I’d give up myself for it.


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