Friday, September 5, 2014

Truman Capote

Truman Capote is known more for his celebrity then for his writing, causing almost as much controversy and discussion with his author photographs and lifestyle choices as with his prose. Which is in some aspects fair, he was quite a character in his own right and never hid his homosexuality in a bigoted era, and he knew how to get publicity, much like the aspiring artist Andy Warhol who greatly admired him; but also in other aspects not quite just, because Capote was a magnificent writer and his celebrity often eclipsed his written work. Before he was even ten he moved to New York with his family and would forever belong to the city. In fact at 19 he already had a job working as a copyboy at The New Yorker (an institution that will feature prominently in the lives of many of the authors profiled this month). Getting his start publishing short stories in many magazines, including the aforementioned New Yorker, brought him to the attention of publishers, in particular Random House, and his first novel was begun.

Capote dabbled in everything from Broadway to films, while touring the Soviet Union with a production of Porgy and Bess he wrote what would become his first non-fiction book, a genre that he would be renowned for when he wrote In Cold Blood in 1965. But the work that captured everyone was his novella Breakfast a Tiffany's. As George Costanza learned to his dismay, while popularized by the 1961 movie with Audrey Hepburn, the original story written in 1958 is far different. But just because they differ doesn't mean that you can't still relive either or both as you wander through New York.

The iconic store and storefront still remain, located just two blocks south of Central Park East at 727 5th Avenue at the corner of West 57th Street and 5th Avenue. I will be interested if you get up the nerve to go in, I never have. Oddly enough most people miss the store. The reason for this is that Trump Tower does loom over the old structure quite alarmingly. Those gaudy gold colored letters spelling out Trump's domain is redolent of the eighties, as is the whole structure. But when looking at the greedy monstrosity, just shift your gaze a little to the left and there is Tiffany and Co. I knew this one girl who went to New York (not me in "disguise," but actually someone else) and was so sad she had missed getting "breakfast" at Tiffany's, and as she was showing me her pictures I said, but you got the edge of the building. I showed her that in her picture of Trump Tower, that shift to beautiful pink stone was where she had wanted to go all along and missed. A sad realization to make once you're already back in Wisconsin.

Yet Manhattan Island isn't the only place where you can stalk the great writer now long gone. Literally just over the Brooklyn bridge is his old residence. Capote said he "live[d] in Brooklyn. By choice." Who wouldn't want to live in this house at 70 Willow Street between Orange Street and Pineapple Street? Besides the wonderful street names the lemony colored house looks spacious and inviting, though I don't expect anyone I know would be able to afford the price tag. Capote's house recently sold for $14 million. But that is the joy of walking in Literary New York and the surrounding areas, you can gawk for free and let Capote's haunting words wash over you: “I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it."


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