Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Epstein on Capote

Reading Joseph Epstein's lyrical essay on Truman Capote, I'm tempted to call Epstein the best writer of his generation. [These payoffs are reaaallly inside baseball. --ed Yeah, so what.]

Epstein acknowledges Capote's genuine gifts, but is clear-eyes about his shortcomings:

Without In Cold Blood, Capote's name would probably be forgotten today. Although his fiction is never less than skillful, with the element of charm bordering on sentimentality frequently coming into play in such stories as "The House of Flowers" and "A Christmas Memory," it often feels a touch insubstantial, derivative, fragile, and too brightly colored. When Capote published his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), George Davis, an editor of Mademoiselle magazine known for his lacerating remarks, said: "I suppose someone had to write the fairy Huckleberry Finn."

Ultimately, Epstein concludes that Capote was destroyed by the celebrity culture he helped create. Really, don't miss this piece.

(Also, not that you care, but it pleases me to report that Epstein's talent is exceeded only by his immense personal decency. As a rule, you shouldn't meet your heroes--unless they're Joe Epstein.)

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