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Capote's 'Answered Prayers'

5:32 PM, Jun 29, 2011 • By EMILY SCHULTHEIS
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Winston Groom reviews Tiny Terror, the new book about the legendary Truman Capote. It turns out, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood was not only a great writer, but an excellent liar as well:

Comes now William Todd Schultz, self-styled “psycho-biographer,” to explain the mystery of Truman Capote’s lamentable Answered Prayers, which almost finished him off as a viable author. In a predictable nutshell, Capote wrote it because he had a lousy childhood that he never got over, but let us not get ahead of ourselves; there are other weenies to roast before this tale is done.

Psychobiographers apparently have a challenging job, which is to figure out how to sound more psychoanalytical than ordinary biographers without driving their readers nuts. As one might have guessed, psychobiographers trace most deviant behavior back to childhood, and Capote’s case is no exception. All but abandoned by both of his divorced parents, Truman was raised in a small Alabama town an hour or so north of Mobile, where he became precocious and amused himself by writing and telling stories so well that no one could figure out whether or not they were true. I was personally, if slightly, involved in one of these stories, which serves to illustrate the challenges here for the psychobiographer.

After he became famous, Truman liked to tell interviewers that he got his start in writing by entering, and winning, a children’s short story contest sponsored by the Mobile Press-Register. As luck would have it, in the wake of Forrest Gump, I told a talk-show host on national TV that I (who grew up in Mobile) also got my start in writing at the age of eight by winning the children’s story contest in theMobile Press-Register. When the then-editor of the newspaper heard of this, he fished out a copy of my original printed story, had it framed, and sent it to me, along with a note adding that, despite many rumors that Truman Capote had once won the paper’s annual short story contest, no evidence existed to support the claim.

Read the whole thing here.

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