Friday, October 06, 2006

Summer Crossing. Truman Capote, 2006

A new book from Capote in 2006, 22 year after his death! - That is a gift from eternity! It is amazing how the book survived and how good it is! Capote began writing it in 1943, which practically makes it his first novel (his first published novel "Other Voices, Other Rooms" dates from 1948). Then, before entirely abandoning "Summer Crossing" (and declaring the manuscript lost) he worked on it -- on and off-- for the course of a decade.
The book tells a girl's coming of age story but unlike other mediocre writers Capote's coming of age is not just about sex and sexuality. It adds an unexpected and profound streak to it - class. The novel's heroine Grady is a teenage socialite from the Park Avenue/Hamptons crowd who falls in love with a Brooklyn Jewish parking attendant. She had never spent a summer in New York but this time she had convinced her parents (who are off to southern France on their regular summer crossing of the Atlantic), that she will be OK alone in the city. Left alone Grady plunges with abandon in the relationship with the handsome lowlife boy from Brooklyn only to find out (especially after a visit to his home and meeting his mother) that this love is impossible. After a first encounter with passion and inexplicable attraction, Grady is tired, bored, and has acquired a sense of belonging - a belonging which love, or whatever it is, can never transgress.

Capote's style is as good as ever. He makes literature within the framework of a sentence, a phrase, just putting two word together...Just look at this description of New York in the summer: "Hot weather opens the skull of the city, exposing its brain, and its heart of nerves, which sizzle like the wires inside a lightbulb. And there exudes a sour extra-human smell that makes the very stone seem flesh-alive, webbed and pulsing." Or a glimpse of the Central Park zoo -- "The cat house of a zoo has an ornery smell , an air powered by sleep, mangy with old breath and dead desires. Comedy in a doleful key is the blowsey she-lion reclining in her cell like a movie queen of silent fame; and hulking ludicrous sight her mate presents...Somehow the leopard does not suffer; nor the panther: their swagger makes distinct claims upon the pulse, for not even the indignities of confinement can belittle the danger in their Asian eyes, those gold and ginger flowers blooming with a bristling courage in the dusk of captivity."
To be able to write like that...


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