These days I’ve been working tirelessly to complete my book. The problem is that as I review the content I’ve written, I want to change all of it. This has happened to me before, and it isn’t uncommon that I trash entire passages, and start from scratch.
I have a tendency to include too much information in one chapter, so what I try to do is chunk out paragraphs and elaborate on them in chapters of their own.
The long process of finding a literary agent is upon me. I’m not sure why it’s so important for me to finish this book, but it is. I’m not expecting to sell thousands of copies, in fact, 250 would be considered a success, but there are themes in my novel that I believe other people will relate to, and hopefully appreciate. I’m not interested in self-publishing, I want to find a publisher.
I spend my days taking care of pets so sometimes it’s hard to focus, and I’m behind where I want to be. Hemingway would seclude himself in Cuba to finish his novels, but then again, I’m not Hemingway. Not even close.
Maude had two seizures back-to-back yesterday afternoon, so I had to attend to her. It’s so funny when she has one of these damn seizures, because when it’s all done she gets up and walks around like nothing ever happened. Her tongue turned blue, which I had never seen before, and I’m worried that the frequency of her fits are increasing.
Anyway, that’s a side note. My book. I’ve been doing a lot of research on Truman Capote after watching the movie Infamous on Tuesday.
The only book of Capote’s that I have ever read was In Cold Blood, which I enjoyed. In fact, I’m re-reading it at the moment. Many people believe that he invented an entire new genre of storytelling with that book, but it’s really just true-crime, not much more than that. He had such an active imagination that it’s impossible to determine which passages are truth, or fiction. His insatiable need to embellish would cost him a lot of friendships.
After In Cold Blood he spent the next ten years trying to finish what he claimed would be his masterpiece, Answered Prayers. Due to popular demand from the public for new material, Esquire released a couple of chapters in 1975 and 1976, the most controversial piece was titled La Côte Basque 1965. This one chapter culminated in Capote’s fall from high society grace.
Many of Capote’s female friends, whom he termed his “swans” were featured in the text. Scandalously, he revealed the personal secrets that they had confided to him throughout the years. Upon publication, they swiftly shunned him, and he turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. These substances are what eventually led to his death from liver cancer at the age of 59 in 1984. Answered Prayers was never completed, and upon his death, despite claims to the press that he was close to finishing his so-called masterpiece, it was discovered that he had only written three chapters.
But many people believe that what really killed Capote was Perry Smith, one of the murderers that he had interviewed extensively for In Cold Blood. In many ways Perry was like Truman. They were both raised in troubled homes, were short in stature, had a talent for art, and creativity. It is rumoured that they fell in love while Perry served his prison sentence, and when Perry was executed, Truman, who arrived to witness the terrible event at Perry’s request, ran from the building in a fit of tears. He was said to have never recovered from Perry’s demise; it traumatized him to the extent that he became self-destructive.
It’s strange though, because out of all his “swans” he kept as company, the one that remained his true friend was Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. After its success, she never wrote again. Lee was instrumental in helping Capote finish In Cold Blood, accompanying him to Holcomb to research the book. Due to his flamboyant mannerisms, the towns folk were reluctant to speak to him. It was Lee who would knock on doors and politely ask residents to speak with Truman about the murders that had rocked their quiet rural village. Her charm persuaded them to agree.
Lee and Capote grew up together, in the same neighbourhood, but she never had a penchant for the high society crowd like Truman did, and after her book’s success she retired to the same town where she grew up. No mention is really made of their relationship after Truman’s disgrace, and because Lee does not give interviews, I guess we’ll never know.
Capote wrote a short-story called A Christmas Memory that I read recently that enlightens readers about his upbringing, and if you get a chance I hope you read it, as it’s only 11 pages. I don’t think it’s that much a sacrifice of your time. It illuminates a little of the obstacles Capote faced as a gay kid growing up during a hostile environment where being homosexual was a dirty little word.
I think people underestimate how challenging it is to be gay in a time when it was not spoken about, and to do so was illegal. Think about how traumatized a gay person would be having to live a secret, and then be ostracized when he slowly made efforts to come out.
One of the things I’ve learned from reading about Capote is that it’s not enough to be good, you have to be great. I don’t want my book to be good, I want it to be great. It’s possible that what is great to me, is mediocre to others, and if that’s the case, I will have to accept my limitations.
When does an artist know that their work is complete? Capote said:
“Since each story presents its own technical problems, obviously one can’t generalize about them on a two-times-two-equals-four basis. Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has defined the natural shape of his story is just this: After reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.”
I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.