The Enduring Mystery of Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers


When Truman Capote died of liver illness sophisticated by a number of intoxications in Bel Air in 1984, the creator nonetheless had not accomplished Answered Prayers, the “magnum opus” he had been touting for 26 years. It was “going to do to America what Proust did to France,” the author informed one among his swans, Marella Agnelli, in one among his many conversations about his alleged masterpiece. He described it to associates, learn aloud from it for small audiences, and even pressed the majority of it right into a pal’s palms—at the very least, that’s the way it appeared. But after Capote died and no accomplished e book was discovered—this, after a $1 million advance, three extensions, and over 1 / 4 century of alleged work—those that stayed loyal to the author by means of the “Côte Basque” debacle confronted the likelihood that they, too, had been manipulated by the creator. 

But how a lot of Answered Prayers was truly discovered? Which society girls did Capote write about within the novel? And what are the probabilities that by means of the heavy haze of medication, alcohol, Studio 54 distractions, and painful estrangement from his beloved social circle, the creator truly completed the e book? In anticipation of the Feud: Capote vs. The Swans finale “Phantasm Forgiveness,” we discover these topics, in addition to how Capote ended up going to public sale eight years in the past. 

How a lot of Answered Prayers was discovered?

Capote’s journals reveal that Answered Prayers was to be divided into seven chapters, however it seems that Capote solely drafted 4 of them—three of which have been excerpted by Esquire, and one among which was printed by VF in 2012 shortly after its discovery. 

One chapter was the notorious “La Côte Basque, 1965” the thinly veiled filleting of Capote’s high-society associates, most of whom dropped him the minute the excerpt was printed.

Another chapter, “Kate McCloud,” was reportedly modeled “on Mona Williams, later Mona von Bismarck, another oft married socialite friend of Truman’s whose cliff-top villa on Capri he’d visited,” in keeping with Sam Kashner’s 2012 characteristic for VF. “Of Mona’s five husbands, one, James Irving Bush, was described as ‘the handsomest man in America’ and another, Harrison Williams, as ‘the richest man in America.’” A 3rd chapter, “Unspoiled Monsters,” chronicles a homosexual hustler who beds women and men alike if they’ll additional his literary profession. The fourth chapter, printed completely in VF, is titled “Yachts and Things.” It remembers a visit overseas between a narrator believed to be based mostly on Capote and a personality who, Kashner guessed, might be a stand-in for The Washington Post’s late writer Katharine Graham. (In the story, everybody appears to do cannabis.) 

Capote informed potential readers that his e book can be filled with thinly veiled characters from his actual life—and appeared to thrill within the hazard of all of it. “He couldn’t stop talking about his planned roman à clef,” Agnelli mentioned. “He told People magazine that he was constructing his book like a gun: ‘There’s the handle, the trigger, the barrel, and, finally, the bullet. And when that bullet is fired from the gun, it’s going to come out with a speed and power like you’ve never seen—wham!’”

So, what occurred?

So much. Two weeks after signing his contract for Answered Prayers with Random House in 1966, Capote’s In Cold Blood was printed—leading to a type of fame and proximity to privilege that instantly trumped sitting at a typewriter. Capote, then 42, closed out the yr by internet hosting his legendary Black and White Ball, signaling his speedy ascension to the highest tier of Manhattan society. By the late ’60s, Capote thought of Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, one among his closest associates. 

Deadlines got here and went. Capote’s unfinished novel grew to become so legendary that, in 1979, the author printed an essay in Vogue making an attempt to clarify the decade-plus-long lag since his final e book. 

For 4 years, roughly from 1968 by means of 1972, I spent most of my time studying and choosing, rewriting and indexing my very own letters, different folks’s letters, my diaries and journals (which comprise very full accounts of tons of of scenes and conversations) for the years 1943 by means of 1965. I meant utilizing a lot of this materials in a e book I had lengthy been planning, a variation on the nonfiction novel. I known as the e book Answered Prayers which is a quote from Saint Therese. […] 

In 1975 and 1976, I printed 4 chapters of the e book in {a magazine}, Esquire. This aroused anger in sure circles, the place it was felt I used to be betraying confidences, mistreating associates and/or foes. I don’t intend to debate this; the problem entails social politics, not inventive advantage. I’ll say solely this: all a author has to work with is the fabric he has gathered as the results of his personal endeavor and observations, and you can’t deny him the appropriate to make use of it. Condemn, however not deny.


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