Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Capote's Death Drive

Our reflections on men's relationships in the light of Brokeback have led to some lighthearted turns of phrase. My favorite is "Brokeback Moment" to describe unprobable encounters between men that seem to smoke with suppressed passion. It's a fun exercise in comedic cultural intervention.

But the story in Brokeback resonates less with me than the story in Capote of two men establishing a confidence - and a deeper bond than passion - that they also denied and betrayed.

In forging such a bond of trust with Perry Smith, in filling so many of Perry's needs for recognition and companionship, in seeing so much of himself in Perry, Capote treaded into the deep.

I watched the director's commentary in the DVD release of the movie. He noted that after In Cold Blood Truman did not finish another book (which is wrong) and that he wrote this inscription in his last unfinished novel Unanswered Prayers, "More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."

Capote's director implied that the source of Truman's grief was having betrayed a friend's confidence and profited from his death. Others have speculated similarly. As much as I agree with plausible explanations, I'm unsatisfied. This betrayal was a trauma he repeated, which suggests to me that he was ruined by more than just routine journalistic betrayal and the loss of a friend. It was love.

Truman slowly drank himself to death, finishing with a drug overdose in 1984, but he died the first time with Perry Smith in prison. Did that first death drive him to the last?

UPDATE: Another Capote movie, Infamous, based on George Plimpton's book is being release this year. More soon.