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Posts Tagged ‘truman capote’

What We’re Loving: Oology, Impostors, Sweden

July 26, 2013 | by

Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of England’s Natural History Museum at Tring, home of the world’s largest bird-egg collection, in his zebra-drawn carriage.

Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of England’s Natural History Museum at Tring, home of the world’s largest bird-egg collection.

Julian Rubinstein’s “Operation Easter,” in last week’s New Yorker, has been my breakfast reading and dinner conversation most of this week. Concerned with the obsession for collecting birds’ eggs—a mania that dates back almost to the mid-nineteenth century—the article relates lurid tales of collectors falling off cliffs in pursuit of nests, hiding amassed collections in secret compartments in their beds, and donning guises to steal eggs from a museum (the party in question pinched ten thousand eggs in some three years). When investigators from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds apprehend a suspect in his apartment, the man tells them, “Thank God you’ve come … I can’t stop.” With investigators jumping into cars, busting down doors, and engaging in two-day island-wide manhunts, this article reads more than a little like a thriller. I’d love to see Gary Oldman in a starring role when it hits the big screen. —Nicole Rudick

I can’t help seconding Sadie’s recommendation of In Love, a novella by Alfred Hayes that has just been reissued by New York Review Classics. The story of a casual love affair that becomes serious as soon it starts to fall apart, In Love harks back to a classic French tradition—what you might call the Novel of Disillusionment—perfected over a century by Constant, Flaubert, Turgenev, and Proust, among others. At the same time, in its use of one-sided dialogue, its film noir sensibility, and its evocation of New York life, this 1953 masterpiece also seems utterly modern—a culmination and a book utterly at home in its moment. —Lorin Stein

This month I had a particularly blue moment. I returned to an old favorite, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye , and then immediately afterward read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, a book that had been recommended to me several times by fellow students and professors alike. It would be difficult for me to state, with confidence, what exactly Bluets is about. The book-length essay is written in vignettes, each numbered and varying in length. Nelson begins with a captivating proposition: “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” Something that began as “[a]n appreciation, an affinity” became something “more serious” and then “it became somehow personal.” I drifted easily into Nelson’s world of blue, in which she seamlessly strings together personal narratives, quotes, and facts, each poignant sketch its own bluish jewel. —Jo Stewart Read More »

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Waugh on Capote

June 13, 2013 | by

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Colin Spencer, Evelyn Waugh (pen & ink, 1959)

Of Mr. Capote’s prose it is hard to speak temperately. It is some sort of jargon quite unfamiliar to me. Of the information he seeks to convey, I am no judge. I have a distant acquaintance with a few of the subjects. Mr. Cecil Beaton I have known, not well, for nearer fifty than forty years. He has always struck me as a genial, hospitable, light-hearted fellow; to Mr. Capote he is ‘one of the most remarkable fellows alive’; and formidable, ‘bitter as bile to those in the Beaton bad-book, unhappy souls who entered this no-exit Hades’; and ‘haughty’; but above all ‘serious.’ ‘When discussing personalities Beaton invariably, asks, “But would you say X is a serious person?”’ Not invariably, Mr. Capote, I assure you. I have never heard him ask this question. Perhaps he likes to pull their legs a little when he goes to America.

—Evelyn Waugh on Observations, by Truman Capote and Richard Avedon, 1959. (Made available along with the rest of The Spectator’s vast archive.)

Image via ColinSpencer.co.uk.

 

Barnaby Conrad: Author, Matador, Bon Vivant, and Thorn in Hemingway’s Side

March 4, 2013 | by

Barnaby as matadorMy brief acquaintance with Barnaby Conrad, one of the bon vivant-iest of all modern bon vivant writers, happened because a stranger decided to wear a certain necklace one evening last fall. I’d been invited to a Fashion Week trunk show in one of New York City’s trendier hotels. I almost didn’t go. I hate trunk shows. But I did go, and the designer greeted me at the door. There was a lovely starkness about her: those gaunt cheekbones and long hands and limbs; Modigliani likely would have loved her. Dangling from a chain around her neck: a charming little brass charm in the shape of a bull.

“My father was a bullfighter,” explained the designer, who’d created the charm herself. “American. You’re an author, right? Then you probably know him: Barnaby Conrad, the writer.”

I did not, as a matter of fact, know Barnaby Conrad. Shame on me: as it turned out, Truman Capote had known Barnaby Conrad. So, for that matter, had Noel Coward and Eva Gabor and William F. Buckley. Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, Alex Haley, and James Michener: they all knew him well. And Hemingway too—although, at one point, he apparently wished that he’d never even heard of Barnaby Conrad.Barnaby Conrad

The first thing that you learned about Mr. Conrad, even when you met him in abstentia: he was charming and very appetite-driven. Two weeks ago, he died at the venerable age of ninety, having authored more than thirty-five books detailing, among other topics, his descent into alcoholism, the secrets of Hemingway’s Spain, and the hijinks of the international bon ton in midcentury San Francisco. He was a Renaissance man with a talent for dwelling at epicenters of rarified, exclusive realms: as one of history’s few high-visibility American bullfighters (while in Spain, he went by the name “El Niño de California,” i.e., the California Kid), the proprietor of a who’s-who nightclub, and also as an accomplished artist (several portraits of his famous friends hang in DC’s National Portrait Gallery). Read More »

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Hypothetical Books, and Other News

February 12, 2013 | by

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  • “But new evidence undermines Mr. Capote’s claim that his best seller was an ‘immaculately factual’ recounting of the bloody slaughter of the Clutter family in their Kansas farmhouse.” Cold blood, indeed! 
  • Douglas Coupland makes some very nice furniture
  • E-readers: not big in Japan
  • Readers have rallied around Maine’s Longfellow Books, badly damaged in the weekend’s blizzard. “I never realized what this store means to people until this weekend,” says the owner. 
  • Bad hypothetical book proposals
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    William Styron in Letters, Part 5

    December 7, 2012 | by

    To George Plimpton

    December 1, 1953 Ravello, Italy

    Dear George:

    Herewith the interview, revised and expanded. I think that in the future it might be a good idea for you to get a tape-recorder for these darn things, because it’s a bitch of a job for the interviewee to edit his own words. Now you will note that I did not completely eliminate all the first part; as a matter of fact I retained the bulk of it, but made quite a few changes and emendations. I think it’s better now, certainly printable. Besides all the additions, you will notice I made a few eliminations. I cut out a few of the cuss-words, which were all too abundant. I cut out the cracks against little Truman and Anthony West, who God knows deserves them, but they seemed a little in poor taste. I also tempered my criticism of Faulkner. I have tried to keep the tone impersonal and conversational throughout, and I think that I’ve succeeded.

    You will notice, too, that I’ve taken your suggestion and have added quite a bit toward the end. I hope you will find the questions—some of which are yours—and answers suitable; at least the piece is considerably lengthened, and I’ve gotten off my chest a few things I’ve wanted to say. One important thing is that I think you must somehow invent a little atmosphere to surround the piece. It’s mighty bare without any stage directions, and I think if you place the thing right where the original interview started, in the Café Select, or some equivalent, it will provide a suitably bibulous background.

    Read More »

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    William Styron in Letters

    December 3, 2012 | by

    “A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end,” explained William Styron in his 1954 Art of Fiction interview. “You live several lives while reading it. Its writer should, too.” Such is the experience in reading Styron’s Selected Letters, edited by Rose Styron, with R. Blakeslee Gilpin, and published this week. Alongside major cultural and political events of the latter half of the twentieth century are intimate accounts of family life, depression, writing, frustrations, and friendships.

    Of his many lives, Styron may be best remembered in this office for his influence on the early years of The Paris Review. It is awfully fun to see those moments surface in his correspondence, and our selection was made with those moments in mind. Look for a new letter each day this week.

    To Dorothy Parker

    July 19, 1952 Paris, France

    Honeybunch darling—the story is, I believe, coming along just dandy and my pretty much night and day work on it is the main reason I haven’t written you before this. It is now between 11,000 and 12,000 words, which I figure is about two-thirds complete. It has some really good—fine—things in it so far, and I think it will be even better when it’s finished. In fact I think I can say it has some of my best writing in it and will make stories by people like Hemingway and Turgenev pale in comparison. That sounds a bit like what Hemingway would say, doesn’t it? Read More »

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