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David Zephyr

(22,785 posts)
13. Truman Capote was an author and a brilliant talent.
Sat Aug 4, 2012, 01:30 PM
Aug 2012

HiPointDem, first thank you very much for passing along this fascinating piece and link about William Burroughs and his letter to Truman Capote.

I am a fan of both writers. I would like to point something out here for all that read this to ponder.

Burroughs grew up in great wealth and privilege with all the fine trappings that go with it. He had what aristocrats would have called "pedigree". Indeed his later-in-life entry into the world of being a "bohemian" and living poor was not his first choice. No, rather he ambitiously planned and sought out a proud career with all the trappings of social status and power that he'd grown up with. He miserably failed at that. And found himself chemically dependent, and became what back then was called "a drug addict".

Contrast that to this:

Tragically flawed, deserted by both of his parents as a young boy, stunted in physical growth, a homosexual who couldn't (and really never tried) to "pass" in a very hostile piece of time/space fabric (the South in the first half of the 20th Century), ground down by the humiliating boot of poverty and class, Truman Capote (like so many others who had lived their lives, from early childhood, on the edge of hate and violence and ridicule) left behind a legacy of literature and story telling that is monumental compared to most of what we are peddled today under the euphemism of books.

And as quaint and silly as it may sound, the truth is that Truman was probably "in love" with one of the condemned in his book. He never was the same after the execution. We will never know, but my library is filled, not just with all of Trumans books, but also almost every book (and there are many) that have been written about him, and I believe that he was indeed in love with Perry Smith. And my library has the great talent of William Burroughs, too.

Still, here's the rub: That child that no one wanted (John Lennon also suffered the same fate) and who later came to New York and was laughed at as a poor, white trash, hick with an accent and "queer", wound up having the world's jet set eating out of the palm of his very hand...and then he dared to write about them, perhaps subconsciously to expose them, causing them to ostracize him. In any event, Truman bit down on that smug, aristocratic class with all the bite that his unwashed teeth could muster and they hated him for it.

Anyone who reads Capote or Tennessee Williams will find a powerful sub-text of "class" layered throughout their work. Sometimes literature can be as corruptive and as dangerous to the status-quo as a political rally. In many ways, Capote and Williams were just as "dangerous" to the status quo of the times as Emma Goldman was in her day.

Burroughs' letter only reveals to me a lot of self-hatred and professional jealousy with regards to Truman's literary success. It seems to me that Burroughs' old aristocratic smugness was stinging at this lower class youngster who surprised the world.

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