Popular quotes: The meaning an history behind "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor."
"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor." Truman Capote
Born in New Orleans in 1924 as Truman Streckfus Persons, Capote was abandoned by his
social-climbing mother and raised by
his elderly aunts and cousins in Monroeville, Alabama. Although much loved by
the cousins who raised him, his childhood was
somewhat solitary and lonely. Speaking of his early years Capote once related,
"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." One of his childhood friends
and neighbors was Harper Lee (b. 1926); apparently Truman was the basis for the
dreamy and enigmatic Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird, and it is even
rumored that Truman helped Lee write her famous book.
In 1933, Truman's dream of permanently joining his mother in New York finally
came true. After winning sole custody of Truman in court, Lillie Mae (also known
as Nina) took her son to live with her new husband who, in 1935, adopted Truman
so he became Truman Garcia Capote. But Truman's dreams of a fabulous life in New
York were systematically shattered as his mother continued to push him away and
criticize his lack of masculinity. He
dropped out of school at seventeen and got a job with The New Yorker
magazine, but his writing was not well suited for the publication and he left in
1944 having not risen above copy boy. Shortly after he began to
submit his stories to magazines more suited to his style such as Mademoiselle
and Harper's Bizarre, and a few years later one of these stories drew the attention of
Random House. His first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was
published in 1948 and drew instant praise, but also notoriety for its
controversial subject matter (a boy who falls in love with a transvestite) and for the
photo of Capote.
His novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the subsequent film
staring Audrey Hepburn consolidated his reputation and popularity with the
social elite; but Capote was not content to rest on his laurels and set of on an
experimental project that effectively created a new literary genre, the
'non-fiction novel'. In Cold Blood (1966) is the story of the 1959
murder of the four members of a Kansas farming family. Capote spent the best
part of six years (some of the time accompanied by Harper Lee who remained a
life-long friend) in Kansas immersing himself in the lives of both the killers (who had been caught) and the
townspeople. In Cold Blood earned Capote millions of dollars and lasting fame.
After holding the "Black and White Ball" - a masked ball at the Plaza Hotel in
New York that was talked about for years by many as the 'party of the century',
he set to work writing Answered Prayers, a largely factual account of the
high-society world which he occupied. The first few chapters (about 200
pages), published in Esquire in 1975, caused a major scandal and many of
his friends and acquaintances abandoned him. As Columnist Liz Smith
explained, He wrote what he knew, which is what people always tell writers to
do, but he just didnt wait till they were dead to do it."
Although he claimed to be still working on Answered Prayers, the shock of
the negative reactions sent Capote into a spiral of alcohol and drug abuse.
He died in 1984 at the age of fifty-nine, having apparently made no progress on
what some thought would be his greatest work - which was published posthumously
in its unfinished state.
"Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act." - Truman Capote
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