I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood when it first came out. My mother had read the excerpts in the New Yorker and went out and bought the book practically the first day it was on sale, and when she was done with it, I read it.
I found some eerie parallels–Lowell Lee Andrews had been executed while I was celebrating my birthday, for example–and could get some feel for the midwestern landscape, since it hadn’t been all that long since we’d moved from central Virginia to Iowa. But it wasn’t till, as relative newlyweds, we moved to Wichita, Kansas in 1974, that I really began to appreciate the setting of the book.
Capote himself, I never had much appreciation for. All I saw was the clown act he so often performed on various TV shows, and his eventual meltdown while talking to Stanley Siegel. While it was easy to acknowledge his gifts as a writer, his public persona was so annoying that it was hard to find any reason to like him, himself.
That finally changed, yesterday, when I saw the film Infamous. While it was somewhat jarring to try to picture “James Bond” (Daniel Craig) as Perry Smith, it was finally clear why Capote melted down after In Cold Blood was published and never really accomplished anything much as a writer again.
The movie was based on George Plimpton’s Capote biography, which was not so much a biography as a collection of reminiscences by the people who’d known him. I read that book several years ago but it didn’t communicate as powerfully as this movie, at least not in my recollection. Clearly, I’m going to have to read that book again.