Picks and Pans Review: Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy

updated 12/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/08/1986 01:00AM

by John Malcolm Brinnin

Five years ago Brinnin wrote a lively, entertaining book about his experiences with six notable literary figures, Capote among them. After Capote died, Brinnin expanded the earlier essay into this book. A former teacher at Vassar and author of more than a dozen books, Brinnin befriended Capote even before Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). Capote, who had had little schooling, was curious about academics and very much wanted their approval. At the same time he was determined to be a celebrity. Brinnin was a firsthand witness to much of Truman's spectacular career. Returning from Paris, Capote dropped names: "Gide gave me this ring...It's sapphire. Cocteau made me a costume and took me to a party. One day I went to see Colette...The old darling, she looks like a doll saved from a fire." Brinnin notes Capote's homosexual affair with actor John Garfield as well as Capote's relationships with men who gave up their families to look after him. The author observed Capote in Venice and in Key West, watched the heavy drinking, knew of the car wrecks, the $60,000 spent on cocaine in a year. And as fame took over Capote's life and his last book, Answered Prayers, became an unfinishable scandal, it was to Brinnin that he confided, "Maybe the joke's wearing a little thin...the sense that two people are stepping into any room I enter...one of them me, the other this pop-up illustration that looks like me and is expected to act accordingly." This is gossip of the lowest order, thoroughly detestable and thoroughly fascinating. (Delacorte, $16.95)

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