11 December 2005


Truman Capote has written such beautiful prose that it’s hard to believe he was a son of a bitch, but Capote persuades you. Much has been said about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tour de force performance; more probably ought to be said about Catherine Keener’s marvelous portrayal of Harper Lee.

What struck me most, though, was the juxtaposition of a pathologically narcissistic Truman Capote with the murderer Perry Smith, who seems to be a sensitive, thoughtful person and yet was responsible for the dreadful carnage at the Kansas farmhouse that is the subject of Capote’s masterpiece In Cold Blood.

So we’re presented with a considerate fellow who’s a vicious killer and a selfish son of a bitch who’s a Great Writer. When the killer is executed, we’re (guiltily) relieved because he was scary—we didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand himself—but when we find out from the closing titles that Truman Capote died in 1984 from the complications of alcoholism and never completed another book, we’re glad.

While the narcissistic artist is a commonplace, we don't like him.

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