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Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... the writers themselves or their publishers. Bennett Cerf sought the bureau’s help on behalf of Truman Capote when he went to Kansas to research In Cold Blood. Because the agents hadn’t read his stuff in the New Yorker they declined to provide a reference. Ayn Rand, a veteran HUAC snitch, offered her own collection of clippings of literary attempts ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond, 3 December 2015

directed by Sam Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... Colbert, their Jamaica neighbour Noël Coward), but details of their social life are sketchy. When Truman Capote pays a visit, Fleming writes to Ann: ‘Can you imagine a more incongruous playmate for me?’ He seems happiest discussing technical details, as when a gun expert, Geoffrey Boothroyd, wrote to say that Bond shouldn’t be packing a Beretta ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Innocents’, 9 January 2014

The Innocents 
directed by Jack Clayton.
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... than most of us are going to need. Is the evil found or imagined? The writers of the film – Truman Capote and William Archibald, the author of the stage play on which it was based – were accused of going too much for the ‘psychological’ reading of James’s tale, most famously advanced by Edmund Wilson: there are no ghosts, it’s all in the ...

Cold Winds

Walter Nash, 18 December 1986

Answered Prayers 
by Truman Capote.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 241 11962 6
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A Rich Full Death 
by Michael Dibdin.
Cape, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780224023870
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Leaning in the Wind 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 235 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14512 4
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The Way-Paver 
by Anne Devlin.
Faber, 155 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 571 14597 3
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... find in your Funk and Wagnall’s); most of all, in the calculated scabrousness of some episodes. Truman Capote’s title, which is also the title of a book his hero has written, is taken from St Teresa: ‘More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.’ What this may foretell – other than, perhaps, that couplings will end in ...


Frank Kermode, 24 July 1986

The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 208 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 224 02385 3
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... winners of ugly-contests are bombarded with offers of marriage. So what happens to somebody like Truman Capote? Amis interviewed him quite brilliantly but you can see how desperate the fun must have been. Capote was a celebrity at 16, a multi-millionaire at 40, and dead at 59. ‘All the excess, solipsism, paranoia ...

Extreme Gothic Americana

James Lasdun, 6 June 2019

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
by Casey Cep.
Heinemann, 314 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78515 073 9
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... to be the ‘assistant researchist’ on the gruesome true crime story that her childhood friend Truman Capote was writing for the New Yorker. Without Lee, Capote might have had trouble getting the people of Holcomb, Kansas to open up about the slaughtered Clutter family. Lee was the daughter of Methodists very like ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross, 4 July 2019

by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... crackpotSusan Sontag – nobodyNora Ephron – liarOther hand:Kenneth Tynan – creepTruman Capote – leechGeorge Plimpton – slickTom Wolfe – talentlessPhilip Roth – jerkIt was a mercy she only had two hands. To be fair, there were some men she liked. They tended to be showbusiness people. She liked Robin Williams, Charlie Chaplin, Tommy Lee ...

Chances are

Michael Wood, 7 July 1983

O, How the wheel becomes it! 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 143 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 434 59925 5
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Brilliant Creatures 
by Clive James.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 224 02122 2
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by Gordon Williams.
Joseph, 233 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2259 3
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... William Faulkner. Tiny. Absolutely minuscule. Nearest thing to a homunculus. Made Truman Capote look like Steve Reeves’) and there is a splendid sequence concerning the after-effects of a vigorous game of squash on a well-preserved but stiffening older man (‘Lancelot moved to the ticket hall like a slow loris ...’ ‘Wheeling slowly ...

Going Postal

Zachary Leader, 5 October 1995

The Paperboy 
by Pete Dexter.
Viking, 307 pp., £15, May 1995, 0 670 86066 2
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Third and Indiana 
by Steve Lopez.
Viking, 305 pp., £10.99, April 1995, 0 670 86132 4
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... Elaine’s’. (The novel is set in 1969, so Yardley is to be imagined drinking with Tom Wolfe, or Truman Capote.) Dexter, a successful novelist who still works as a newspaperman and lives in the sticks, on an island in the Puget Sound, clearly detests Yardley, but Ward is no hero either. At times in Dexter’s fiction, a Ward-like manner – Dexter’s ...

Asking to Be Looked at

Wayne Koestenbaum, 25 January 1996

Mapplethorpe: A Biography 
by Patricia Morrisroe.
Macmillan, 461 pp., £20, September 1995, 9780333669419
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Playing with the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe 
by Arthur Danto.
California, 206 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 520 20051 9
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... can be traced to a world of influential men. That fist belongs to – J. Edgar Hoover? Roy Cohn? Truman Capote? The daisy chain doesn’t stop. A hostile critic in the Village Voice will write that the famous photo of a black man in a suit ‘with his fly open and his elephant cock sticking out’ is ‘ugly, degrading, obscene – typical of the ...


John Sutherland: Sad Professor, 18 February 1999

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture 
by Roger Scruton.
Duckworth, 152 pp., £14.95, November 1998, 0 7156 2870 4
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... for Michelangelo. Since REM’s 1995 Monster tour, Stipe, once as elfinly beautiful as the young Truman Capote, has affected a shaven-headed, emaciated look. Scurrilous columnists have suggested that Stipe’s shaven pate is a version of the Bruce Willis baldness cure. On his latest video he poses naked and writhing. The spectacle of this ...

A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon Burn, 5 June 2008

Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... fame and death all meet. He began his career as a proponent of the non-fiction novel pioneered by Truman Capote and Norman Mailer; his first book, Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son (1984), was a painstaking re-creation of the life of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. He topped that with an account of Fred and Rosemary West’s killing ...

At the Whitney

Paul Keegan: Andy Warhol, 7 March 2019

... Factory. But an air of wistful insufficiency clings to the drawings of an impossibly remote Truman Capote, the first of Warhol’s distant stars, or the many studies of bare male feet or penises, all done with a flowing Cocteau-like economy of line. ‘Before and After’ (1962) The early rooms show the confidence, and then the ...

Smilingly Excluded

Richard Lloyd Parry: An Outsider in Tokyo, 17 August 2006

The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 
by Donald Richie, edited by Leza Lowitz.
Stone Bridge, 494 pp., £13.99, October 2005, 1 880656 97 3
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... Avedon (photographer), Tamasaburo Bando (kabuki actor), Cecil Beaton (photographer/designer) and Truman Capote (author). He arrived in Tokyo at a time when Mount Fuji could be seen from all over the city because the intervening buildings had recently been incinerated by American bombs; he is still going strong today, as the Japanese nervously brace ...

President Gore

Inigo Thomas: Gore Vidal, 10 May 2007

Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964-2006 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 316 02727 8
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... he believed was his position at the head of the post-World War Two pack. He wasn’t pleased when Truman Capote appeared on his tail, and was infuriated when Capote professed an intimacy with André Gide greater than his own – though this proved to be Capote’s ...

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