Truman Capote is one of the best American all-time writers, with a controversial and colorful life. His literary genius was merged with his preference for the glamor of high society lifestyle. He wrote very few books, yet he received amazing success due to the neat style in prose and to the good knowledge of human psychology.
He was born in 1924 in the city of New Orleans. He was abandoned by his mother, and raised by cousins and aunts in Alabama. He had a really lonely childhood, which made him turn to writing as a means of escaping his deep solitude.
"I began writing really sort of seriously when I was about eleven. I say seriously in the sense that like other kids go home and practice the violin or the piano or whatever, I used to go home from school every day and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it."
Then in his teenage, he was sent to his mother, in New York, to live with her and her new husband, a situation which much resembles one of his first novel's main character, Joel from 'Other Voices, Other Rooms'.
His success in writing was followed by social popularity, especially among the elite of high society. Capote thus appeared at the best clubs, parties, restaurants, etc. He wrote 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1958) which turned into the hit movie by the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn, who even got an Academy Award for her charming, extraordinary performance.
Nevertheless, Truman's ambition was not to merely achieve fame and fortune, but to come up with an innovation in the field of journalism by introducing a new type of revolutionary novel: the non-fiction novel.
His 1966 book entitled 'In Cold Blood' belonged to this new genre. This novel was considered by most critics as Capote's true masterpiece. It is based on the story of a murder which actually took place in Kansas, where a farming family, the Clutters, was killed.
Capote went to Kansas to capture the whole atmosphere and understand the impact that this murder had on the small town. He spent six years there, taking thousands of pages of notes from the lives of the people there, as well as from the life of the murderers. Here what he said on 'Cold Blood'.
"This book was an important event for me. While writing it, I realized I just might have found a solution to what had always been my greatest creative quandary. I wanted to produce a journalistic novel, something on a large-scale that would have the credibility of fact, the immediacy of film, the depth and freedom of prose, and the precision of poetry."
At any rate, the book enjoyed immediate success, and sold in millions of copies, and was very much talked about in that time. Inspired by the glamorous lifestyles of rich and famous people, Capote began to write a book which was meant to present the very intimate side of his friends' world.
Nevertheless, after having published a part of it in the Esquire magazine, this act of his caused a great scandal among his friends. Liz Smith, a columnist for this magazine, said "He wrote what he knew, which is what people always tell writers to do, but he just didn't wait till they were dead to do it."
After these first previews of his novel, Capote came to realize that most of his close friends abandoned him. This put him in a state of total shock, and so he took refuge in alcohol and drugs.
The use of these substances seemed to dry up all his inspiration, for he couldn't finish his book anymore, or write anything of good quality. Perhaps this fact inspired him to say "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor." He died at the age of 59, in 1984.
Although he's left us with such few writings, his unique artistic style, vision, and talent place him among one of the best. He was great at creating powerful images and interesting, charming characters, and his language is very colorful and expressive. In fact, his characters are often depicted through the language they use.