a minor capote


Only one of those last efforts, the title piece in “Music for Chameleons,” appeared in the magazine, and in many ways it’s a distillation of earlier themes and images: absinthe, ghosts, a mysterious mirror, a Carnival parade, a whiff of violence and homosexuality. In many ways the Capote of this book is not the heroic reporter of the two recent movie versions of his life but, rather, a Gothic, fin-de-siècle kind of writer who would have fitted right in with Beardsley, Wilde and Ernest Dowson. You don’t read him here so much for character (most of his people are types) or for vivid description as for atmosphere and filigreed prose. In a 1946 sketch of New Orleans, he says the atmosphere is “like Chirico,” and a year later he writes the same thing about Hollywood: “Here where no one walks cars glide in a constant shiny silent stream, my shadow, moving down the stark white street, is like the one living element of a Chirico.” Capote loved tropical shadow and the spooky half light, just as he loved Venetian mists, rooming houses, cemetery statuary. From his descriptions, it’s sometimes hard to tell one place from another — Capote’s Brooklyn is practically indistinguishable from New Orleans — and that’s because all his landscapes aspire in a way to the remembered South of his childhood. Even when he describes the present, many of the pieces feel nostalgic, and there hangs over almost all of them a scent of overripeness, of blooms beginning to fade.

more from the NY Times here.