Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"More tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered ones"
- Epigraph from the unfinished book, "Answered Prayers", by Truman Capote.

On the train ride to Washington D.C. recently, I completed a riveting novel, acclaimed by many to be the hallmark of the 'non-fiction' trend, which now has dedicated sections in bookstores, and in some cases, entire bookstores, to its fame. The novel was entitled "In Cold Blood", by Truman Capote, and it brought into focus for me the character that Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed, ever so effortlessly.

Capote became, by far, America's most famous writer of the times, especially for that one book, which was preceded by "Breakfast at Tiffany's". While 'In Cold Blood' is a literary masterpiece, it was also an ethical timebomb. It brought out one of the most controversial moral issues of its time - how far does one go to fulfill his artistic dream?

The issue that the film raises, is the fact that Truman could have saved the lives of the real-life characters, the accused sociopaths with whom he had developed an understanding and deep attachment, especially with Perry Smith, whom he adored. As it was non-fiction, the story was writing itself and unfolding, in front of Capote's eyes. However, the most logical, controversial and, dare I say, "fitting" conclusion to the chilling tale, would have been the execution of the two murderers, as per the court ruling. And although Truman gained Perry's undying faith, by pretending to be his friend/confidante, he never ever intended to save him from the gallows, even though he could have, as Capote's friend and novelist, Harper Lee, points out at the end. The result? Perry and Richard were executed. Capote went on to write "In Cold Blood" and became a phenomenon, both for his writing and for the new trend of "the non-fiction novel" that he created.

He never finished another book, and died in '84 of alcoholism.

Many attribute his inability to write and severe depression, to his inner struggle between the appeal of completing his legendary book, and the characters he was trying to portray therein, and his deep bond with their real-life counterparts. The question is - who comes first?

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