Search Menu

Truman Capote

(1924-1984), American

Biography

Truman Capote was one of the most notorious writers of his time. Bitter public feuds with contemporaries such as Jackie Onassis, Norman Mailer, and Gore Vidal made Capote more than an author. His openly expressed homosexuality (during a time when many gay people remained in the closet for fear of being ostracized), wit, and strong opinions kept him on television and in magazines as a major personality.

Capote did not attend college. Instead, he published a few short stories and eventually a first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, in 1948. A succession of books followed, as did involvement with the stage and film. In 1958 he wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's. Finally, after almost ten years living in Europe, he returned to the United States in the late 1950s hoping to compose what he termed "an epic nonfiction novel."

The book was called In Cold Blood. In 1959, Capote noticed a small newspaper item describing the mysterious murder of a Kansas ranch family of four. He decided that this might be the perfect story for him to write about. Five years of intense research followed, during which time Capote became very close to the two murderers, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. He talked to the townspeople of Holcomb, where the murders were committed, and nearby Garden City. He followed the police investigation and the eventual appeals process until the execution of Hickock and Smith in 1965. During interviews he never took notes or used a tape recorder; instead he was able to transcribe the interviews from memory, a skill he had been practicing for years.

The result, published in January 1966, was a long and highly acclaimed novel, a success critically and commercially. It is widely read among schoolchildren and inmates alike. According to Capote, every word of In Cold Blood is true. And Capote himself never appears in the book. He believed that the key to good journalism was making the author invisible.

Show full bio

SparkNotes

Truman Capote Quotes

All writing, all art, is an act of faith. If one tries to contribute to human understanding, how can that be called decadent? It's like saying a declaration of love is an act of decadence. Any work of art, provide it springs from a sincere motivation to further understanding between people, is an act of faith and therefore is an act of love.

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.

Disco is the best floor show in town. It's very democratic, boys with boys, girls with girls, girls with boys, blacks and whites, capitalists and Marxists, Chinese and everything else, all in one big mix.

It's a scientific fact that if you stay in California you lose one point of your IQ every year.

Show all quotes

Novels

  • Other Voices, Other Rooms

    (1948)

  • The Grass Harp

    (1951)

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s

    (1958)

Nonfiction

  • The Muses Are Heard

    (1956)

  • In Cold Blood

    (1966)