Sunday, 10 March 2013

Short Story Sunday - Truman Capote

Truman Capote - The Complete Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)

This collection contains twenty short stories. They are ordered chronologically and span the years 1943 to 1982, with over half of them being written in the 1940s.

I have not read any of Truman Capote's other works, but I don't think I can say that I approached the stories with a completely open mind. I read very few modern classics (with a particular lack of interest in titles from the 40s and 50s) as I generally prefer novels from either the late nineteenth century or the 1990s and 2000s.

I started at the beginning and planned to read the whole collection chronologically. By the time I had finished A Tree of Night (the eighth story), I gave up and decided to flick forwards to dip into a few more stories from the later years.

Many of the first several stories focused on female characters and had an eerie atmosphere, but when the stories came to an end, I was left thinking, "Well, what was that all about?". In The Walls Are Cold a disturbed, teenage coquette throws a strop; in Miriam a lonely widow is scared; in A Tree of Night a young, female college student is frightened by some ne'er-do-wells on a train. The only story which I enjoyed in the first section was Jug of Silver which is about a poor, young boy called Appleseed and his attempts to win a guess-how-many competition of a jar filled with nickels and dimes.

I'm glad that I didn't just give up with this collection, as the autobiographical stories: A Christmas Memory, The Thanksgiving Visitor and One Christmas were worth wading through the strange stories about perturbed and disturbed women.

Truman Capote's parents divorced when he was very young and he was sent to live with elderly, distant relatives of his mother's in rural Alabama. He becomes great friends with one of the elderly relatives, Miss Sook.
"I am seven; she is sixty-something. We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together -well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880s, when she was still a child. She is still a child."
The descriptions of rural life in the South during the Great Depression are very vivid and although the relationship between Miss Sook and Buddy may be a bit saccharine sweet for some, I thought these three stories were really beautiful. Unlike the rest of the collection, they had plot, moral and well-crafted characterisation.

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