Truman Capote

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Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.

Truman Capote (30 September 192425 August 1984), born Truman Streckfus Persons, was an American writer.


  • Disco is the best floor show in town. It's very democratic, boys with boys, girls with girls, girls with boys, blacks and whites, capitalists and Marxists, Chinese and everything else, all in one big mix.
  • It's a scientific fact that if you stay in California you lose one point of your IQ every year.
    • Reported in Steven D. Price, 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About California (2007), p. viii.
  • It seemed odd to Joel that nature did not reflect so solemn an event: flowers of cotton-boll clouds within a sky as scandalously blue as kitten-eyes were offensive to their sweet disrespect.
    • At Jesus Fever's funeral
  • A resident of over a hundred years in so narrow a world deserved higher homage.
  • The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.
  • 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.
  • Never trust a nigger: their minds and hair are full of kinks in equal measure.
    • Miss Amy
  • She beckoned to him, shining and silver, and he knew he must go: unafraid, not hesitating, he paused only at the garden's edge, as though he'd forgotten something, he stopped and looked back at the bloomless, descending blue, at the boy he had left behind.
  • But my dear, so few things are fulfilled: what are most lives but a series of incomplete episodes
    • Randolf
  • Past certain ages or certain wisdoms it is very difficult to look with wonder; it is best done when one is a child; after that, and if you are lucky, you will find a bridge of childhood and walk across it.
  • “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.”
  • I ought at least to have made corporal. But I never did. Know why? Because the sergeant we had was tough. Because I wouldn't roll over. Jesus, I hate that stuff. I can't stand it. Though—I don't know. Some queers I really liked. As long as they didn't try anything. The most worthwhile friend I ever had, really sensitive and intelligent, he turned out to be queer.
    • Perry Smith, part 2
  • She had said she was afraid of Perry, and she was, but was it simply Perry she feared, or was it a configuration of which he was part [...]? The eldest, the brother she loved, had shot himself; Fern had fallen out of a window, or jumped; and Perry was committed to violence, a criminal.
    • Part 3
  • Envy was constantly with him; the Enemy was anyone who was someone he wanted to be or who had anything he wanted to have.
    • On Dick, part 3
  • “Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity.”
  • “Imagination, of course, can open any door - turn the key and let terror walk right in.”
  • “There is considerable hypocrisy in conventionalism. Any thinking person is aware of this paradox; but in dealing with conventional people it is advantageous to treat them as though they were not hypocrites. It isn't a question of faithfulness to your own concepts; it is a matter of compromise so that you can remain an individual without the constant threat of conventional pressures.”
    • Willy-Jay
  • “I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.”
    • Perry Smith
  • In the disposition of capital cases in the United States, the median elapsed time between sentence and execution is approximately seventeen months. [...] However, even an attorney of moderate talent can postpone doomsday year after year, for the system of appeals that pervades American jurisprudence amounts to a legalistic wheel of fortune [...].
    • Part 4
  • More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

Truman Capote: Conversations (1987)

  • All writing, all art, is an act of faith. If one tries to contribute to human understanding, how can that be called decadent? It's like saying a declaration of love is an act of decadence. Any work of art, provide it springs from a sincere motivation to further understanding between people, is an act of faith and therefore is an act of love.
    • From a 1952 interview
  • Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
    • From a 1957 interview
  • Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: after reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.
    • From a 1957 interview
  • [You've said your material chooses you.] That's the difference between the serious artist and the craftsman—-the craftsman can take material and because of his abilities do a professional job of it. The serious artist, like Proust, is like an object caught by a wave and swept to shore. He's obsessed by his material; it's like a venom working in his blood and the art is the antidote.
    • From a 1968 interview
  • People who are having a love-sex relationship are continuously lying to each other because the very nature of the relationship demands that they do, because you have to make a love object of this person, which means that you editorialize about them. You know? You cut out what you don't want to see, you add this if it isn't there. And so therefore you're building a lie. But in a friendship you don't do that. You do exactly the reverse. You try more and more to be as completely pure and straight as you can be.
    • From a 1970 interview
  • Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
    • From "Self-Portrait" (1972)

Quotes about

  • not since the early work of Eudora Welty has there been an example of such striking literary virtuosity. Even if Mr. Capote were ten or twenty years older than he is, his powers of description and evocation, his ability to bend language to his poetic moods, his ear for dialect and for the varied rhythms of speech would be remarkable. In one so young this much skill represents a kind of genius. On the other hand, I find myself deeply antipathetic to the whole artistic-moral purpose of Mr. Capote's novel. In Mr. Capote's case, as with so many of our gifted contemporary artists, I would freely trade eighty percent of his technical skill for twenty percent more value in the uses to which it is put.