Monday, June 01, 2009

Review: Capote's Complete Stories

The Complete Stories, Truman Capote

“Yesterday afternoon the six o’clock bus ran over Miss Bobbit.”
So begins the story “Children on Their Birthdays,” and I dare any reader to put it down after an opening sentence like that.

Without reservation, this is one of the finest collections of short stories I have read. The designation “Master of the Short Story” seems overused, but Capote indeed qualifies for a piece of the title. Regrettably, he published only twenty of them during his long career, mostly for magazines between the years 1943 and 1951.

When Truman was a boy of seven, both of his parents deserted him to further their own “careers.” They dumped him on a houseful of elderly cousins in rural Alabama, one of whom, sixty-something Miss Sook Faulk, became his closest (and only) friend. Three moving stories evolved from this loving relationship: “A Christmas Memory,” “The Thanksgiving Visitor” and “One Christmas.”

Capote definitely has a Southern voice, especially in his early stories, but he also has a voice for the denizens of New York. The one thing that stays constant is the writing itself: crystal clear prose that conveys emotion with an economy of words and a rhythm that effortlessly carries the reader to story’s end. The endings, too, are unambiguous—poignant, wry, sometimes mildly shocking or amusing—thus leaving the reader with a satisfying understanding of the story:

“Good luck, Miss [name withheld]. Thanks for the peanuts.”

If you are a lover of short stories, do not pass over this collection.


kara said...

i love me some captote...both the original and the p.c. hoffman recipes. i'll have to pick this one up as i absolutely detest making my own decisions about self entertainment.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I really should read this actually, as I am woefully ignorant of Capote's writing. And summer really is the season of the short story, isn't it?

Charlie said...

KARA: I forgot about the movie, but I remember Capote on the talk shows after the success of In Cold Blood. He was busy self-destructing at the time . . .

BARB His short stories are well worth a summer read.

Mary Witzl said...

Years ago, I remember reading a wonderful short story which I'm sure was by Capote. It was about a little boy and his auntie/grandmother (can't remember) celebrating Christmas out in the woods somewhere. Picking nuts featured in it, I'm pretty sure -- pecans... I remember crying my eyes out after reading it -- the sure sign of a well written story.

Charlie said...

MARY: You're referring to "A Christmas Memory," and you have a darn good memory yourself. Buddy (the little boy) and Sook (the elderly cousin), are collecting pecans for the holiday fruitcakes they bake together.

It's a beautiful story.