Called "the most perfect writer of a generation" by his contemporary Norman Mailer, Truman Capote (1924-1984) was born Truman Streckfus Persons on this day in New Orleans.
The son of a former Miss Alabama, he achieved literary fame at the age of 21 with his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms which included this stunning passage, a tribute to his genius:
"The true beloveds of this world are in their lover's eyes lilacs opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child's Sunday, lost voices, one's favorite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory."
Capote wrote the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1958 with Marilyn Monroe in mind, and balked at the casting of Audrey Hepburn in the famous film role. He was 42 when he finished his masterpiece, In Cold Blood, a "nonfiction novel" about the brutal murder of a Kansas farm family which took him six years to write. Reading like a novel, Capote created an entire new genre of writing called creative nonfiction.
"Writing has laws of perspective of light and shade just as painting does, or music," he said, "If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."
Capote was five feet tall, boyish, with a high lisping voice. He could write dark drama and light comic fiction with equal brilliance. Biographer George Plimpton described Capote as an unbelievably charming man...a great story teller, and an engaging inventor of truth. "Truman had a great line that if it did not happen, this is the way it should have happened."
Of Capote, actor Humphrey Bogart said, "At first you can't believe him, he's so odd, and then you want to carry him around with you always."
Make your words dance.