Morbid Fact Du Jour For August 29, 2017

Today’s Oddly-Inflected Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Sharp as a two-pointed pencil, young Truman Capote taught himself to read and write before entering first grade. He claimed to have written his first novel by the age of nine, and practiced at writing as diligently as others learned a musical instrument. His earliest years were spent in rural Alabama, where he was best friends with Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird), but was moved to New York City before his teen years.  There, his remarried mother sent him to a military school for a while to toughen him up in the hope of making him more masculine. Truman, however, was the type that seemed to his mother genetically born gay, a fact she took so seriously that she aborted two following pregnancies, afraid of giving birth to another child with his personality.  (Ouch! – DeSpair)  When Truman finished high school he was steadfastly determined to become a writer, and thought college only a waste of time. He got a job at the New Yorker cataloging cartoons, but soon made a name winning prizes and publishing short stories in other prestigious magazines. By the time he was twenty-four, his semi-autobiographical novel Other Voices, Other Roomshad made the New York Times bestseller list. As much as Capote was dedicated to perfecting his writing style, he equally obsessed with his image (in contrast to former childhood friend Harper Lee), and set out to create a public personality for himself from the start. His sexual preferences, at a time when being gay was not openly accepted, his small stature that reached an adult height of five feet four inches, and a unique, oddly inflected and high-pitched voice, would have seemed to most a detriment. Yet he capitalized on his strangeness, and considerable intellect, to make inroads and became, at least outwardly, accepted into the company of high society. Capote’s publishing success grew astronomically after the publication of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, followed by In Cold Blood, so that few could argue with his artistic genius. Noted critic John Hersey praised In Cold Blood as “a remarkable book,” and writer Norman Mailer declared Capote to be “the most perfect writer of my generation”.

Handsome Moz-like Young Truman

During the mid-sixties, he reached his heyday and considered himself the cat’s meow of the jet set when his ultra-exclusive “Black and White Ball” became a coveted invitation. He succeeded in fulfilling his obsession to be counted among the elite, though he began to realize that he was never truly considered their equal, and perhaps no more than an amusement. The notion that he was the modern-day John Merrick, “The Elephant Man,” an outsider allowed to mingle as a curiosity among the upper crust, took its toll. He drank more and more heavily and took drugs, entering numerous rehab programs while deciding to seek revenge. 

And Truman near the end…

Capote promised to write a book that would expose the secret foibles of the debutantes and dignitaries in his characteristic cuttingly crafted way. After many false promises and multiple delays in the delivery of his awaited tome, he became more and more ostracized, eventually withdrawing nearly entirely from the limelight. After a few drunken appearances on TV and more rehab, doctors determined that Capote’s brain mass was shrinking. He could no longer write coherently. In 1980, at age fifty-nine, he died during a morning nap, officially, from liver disease complicated by “multiple drug intoxication.” It seemed he had finally kicked his drinking habit, though barbiturates, Valium, anti-seizure drugs, and painkillers were found in his blood.

Culled from: Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages


Truman’s End

Here’s a sad video documenting Truman’s final years, including his drunken appearance on a talk show. 


  1. His voice sounds like a quarrelsome old lady who’s about to turn her hose on some poor kid crossing her yard.
    Not only is it ugly to listen to, it sounds as if it was a strain for him to maintain it. Like yo might feel after a long period of time imitating another’s voice.
    He really should have seen a voice coach or speech therapist; talking should not that b e that much of an effort.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this–I ended up watching the whole Biography, ordering his first book, and his biography by the author interviewed. He’s always fascinated me and I think his life ended so sadly. I’m old enough to remember his appearances on talk shows when I was young.

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