Truman Capote Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Capote frequently depicted isolated, alienated personalities engaged in a desperate pursuit of love, seeking a place of security and belonging. That search is seen in the plights of characters as varied as Joel Sansom, Holly Golightly, and Judge Cool and the tree dwellers of The Grass Harp; it is found even in the real-life personalities of the killers in In Cold Blood.

The sense of personal desolation and anxiety is depicted with varying styles; Capote’s early work has a romantically dense and suggestive metaphorical style, whereas later in his career he developed the stylized but factually based approach that he called the “nonfiction novel.” All writing, Capote often said, like all art, has at its center a perfectly wrought core and shape. It is this distilled essence in his writing, coupled with his theme of the individually bruised soul seeking safety, that gives his works their almost unbearable tension.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Because his parents were divorced when he was four years old, Truman Capote was reared by aunts and cousins in a small town in Alabama. At seventeen, he moved to New York City and worked his way up from mailroom clerk to feature writer for The New Yorker. Capote’s early promise seemed fulfilled with the success of In Cold Blood, and he spent many years traveling around the world as a celebrated author. He became the pet celebrity for a number of high-society women, most notably Barbara “Babe” Paley and Lee Bouvier Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. His charmed life seemed to fade, however, under the pressure of trying to produce another successful novel. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Capote’s health was ruined by alcoholism and drug dependency.

The downslide began in 1975, however, when Esquire magazine published Capote’s story “La Côte Basque: 1965.” The story was a thinly veiled exposé of the scandals of the rich and famous, and its targets did not appreciate the publicity. Capote’s friends immediately ostracized him, and he became persona non grata in many of the places he had previously frequented. Depressed by the reaction that his story generated, Capote became reclusive. His work deteriorated even more, and he did not produce anything to rival his earlier writing before he died at the home of his longtime friend Joanne Carson in 1984.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Truman Capote, whose name at birth was Truman Streckfus Persons, was born in New Orleans on September 30, 1924. His mother, Nina (Faulk) Persons, only sixteen when he was born, had married a traveling salesman, Joseph Persons, to escape the drabness of her hometown, Monroeville, Alabama. The marriage soon proved unhappy, and by the time Capote was four years old his parents had become divorced. When his mother moved to New York, she sent her son (an only child) to live with a variety of relatives in the South. From the time Capote was four until he was ten, he lived outside Monroeville, where one of his neighbors was Nelle Harper Lee, who later put him into her novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) as Dill, the strange, brilliant little boy who is “passed from relative to relative.” The relatives with whom he stayed were four elderly, unmarried cousins—three women and their brother. One of the women was Sook Faulk, a childlike, simple woman, wise in ways that mattered to a small boy who otherwise lived much to himself and within his own imagination. Sook Faulk inspired the character of Dolly Talbo in The Grass Harp, and Capote later commemorated his childhood friendship with her in his autobiographical stories A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor. In his secluded life in rural Alabama, he read Charles Dickens and other novelists at an early age and made his first attempts at fiction at the age of ten. Feeling himself different from others, without the love of a mother or father, uncertain even of a home, Capote developed the sense of isolation that informs all of his fiction.

Capote’s childhood wanderings continued after he left Monroeville in 1934. At different times, he stayed with cousins in New Orleans, and at one point he lived with a family in Pass Christian, Mississippi, which provided the setting for Other Voices, Other Rooms. In 1939, when he was sixteen, he went to New York to join his mother and her second husband, Joseph Garcia Capote, a Cuban textile manufacturer who legally adopted him and whose surname he took. At this time, he was sent to a series of boarding schools in New York and then to Greenwich High School in Millbrook, Connecticut, where his parents had moved. At seventeen, he dropped out of school and found work with The New Yorker magazine. After two years, he left his job to live with relatives in Alabama and begin a first novel, Summer Crossing, later discarded when he began work on Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Capote had been sending out stories for publication since he was fifteen; by the time he was seventeen he had his first acceptances, and in Alabama he wrote his first important stories—“Miriam” and “A Tree of Night.” With a fifteen-hundred-dollar advance from Random House for his novel in progress, he traveled to New Orleans, then to New York and Nantucket,...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

For almost forty years, Truman Capote (kuh-POH-tee) was in the news. He first attracted public interest as a precocious wunderkind of fiction. Later he became known not only for his short stories and novels but also for his nonfiction. His literary reputation was almost equaled by his reputation as a jet-setter. He was a drawing card for interview shows and newspaper features. Any story or article of his, even in his declining years, became a featured work in popular magazines.

Born in New Orleans, September 30, 1924, to Lillie Mae Faulk (later changed to Nina) and Arch Persons, he was named Truman Streckfus Persons. After his parents’ divorce and his mother’s remarriage, Truman took the surname of his adoptive...

(The entire section is 499 words.)


(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons—the only child of a failed marriage between a former Miss Alabama and a steamboat owner—on...

(The entire section is 416 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons, the only child of J. Archulus Persons and Lillie Mae Faulk Persons. During the first six years of his childhood, the boy frequently was handed off to the care of relatives by his carefree and irresponsible parents. Following his parents’ permanent separation when Truman was six, he was left fully in the care of relatives in Monroeville, Alabama.

Being raised by a series of relatives, Capote had a lonely childhood existence; the experience forced him, as he said in many interviews as an adult, to create his own world, personality, and sense of identity. The search for that sense of selfhood was to be a frequent theme in his literary work, both fiction and nonfiction....

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(Short Stories for Students)

Truman Capote drew on his own youthful experience in rural Alabama to write ''A Christmas Memory." This story, which he called his personal...

(The entire section is 570 words.)