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.


Blogger chiron said...

Of course I meant to work into this post the phrase "Capote Moment." I recently had my Capote Moment. Like Truman, I exercised my empathy, I actively listened and questioned, and I was completely "open" while my "subject" revealed the most insane beliefs and confession I had ever heard. I listened and probed, and when the evening was over, I picked up the bill, and at no time did I attempt to flee. That was my Capote Moment.

10:04 PM  
Blogger chiron said...

BTW >>> it was nobody you know and you don't want to hear what he said - not that it would shrink your head or make it explode - it's just really uninteresting as a piece of insanity - and so nothing I could turn into a book deal.

10:19 PM  
Blogger GayProf said...

I agree that Capote made an interesting counterpoint to Brokeback. Both of the mainstream visions of gay men this year showed them to be sad and ultimately unhappy with their lives.

Capote, though, at least provided more character depth and development. Shamefully, I didn’t know much about the real Capote. I wonder, though, if he really spent much time thinking about these ethical dilemmas.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Aethlos said...

i can't wait to see brokeback... i've seen crash... and i feel a LONG VICIOUS post coming wherein i harangue anyone who claims brokeback's story of hidden 'shame' "love" was better than the magnificent Crash... hmmm...

5:13 PM  
Anonymous jacko said...

Been away too long, Marcus. I have, I mean.

Read Capote's 'Music for Chameleons'. In one supposedly honest story, he describes fleeing LA - with the help of Pearl Bailey - before surrending testimony on another confidante/murderer (Beausoleil? I'm not sure). He does not outright paint himself as heroic, but the vibe is there.

But I fear your analysis/questioning of what happened with Tru and the first killer gives Capote credit for a depth I don't believe he possessed. I think he was pathologically fascinated and turned on by killers. As I think he was far more crushed by what the critics said about his 'Answered Prayers' tripe than he was about ANY relationship he had.

One amateur's opinion, anyway.

3:01 PM  

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