Other Voices, Other Rooms

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Hardcover(2004 Modern Library Edition)

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Truman Capote’s first novel is a story of almost supernatural intensity and inventiveness, an audacious foray into the mind of a sensitive boy as he seeks out the grown-up enigmas of love and death in the ghostly landscape of the deep South.

At the age of twelve, Joel Knox is summoned to meet the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at the decaying mansion in Skully’s Landing, his father is nowhere in sight. What he finds instead is a sullen stepmother who delights in killing birds; an uncle with the face—and heart—of a debauched child; and a fearsome little girl named Idabel who may offer him the closest thing he has ever known to love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679643227
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/21/2004
Edition description: 2004 Modern Library Edition
Pages: 194
Product dimensions: 4.95(w) x 6.85(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

TRUMAN CAPOTE was born September 30, 1924, in New Orleans. After his parents’ divorce, he was sent to live with relatives in Monroeville, Alabama. It was here he would meet his lifelong friend, the author Harper Lee. With the 1948 publication of Other Voices, Other Rooms, Capote was catapulted onto the international literary scene and for nearly four decades was a fixture in New York literati and high society circles. Twice awarded the O. Henry Short Story Prize, Capote was also the recipient of a National Institute of Arts and Letters Creative Writing Award and an Edgar Award. Among his many celebrated works are the short-story collection The Grass Harp, the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the memoirs A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor, and the true-crime masterpiece In Cold Blood. Capote died in 1984, just weeks shy of his sixtieth birthday.

JOHN BERENDT is the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. His work has also appeared in Esquire and New York, where he was also an editor. He lives in New York City.

Date of Birth:

September 30, 1924

Date of Death:

August 25, 1984

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Place of Death:

Los Angeles, California


Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York City and Greenwich High School in Connecticut

Read an Excerpt


Now a traveler must make his way to Noon City by the best means he can, for there are no buses or trains heading in that direction, though six days a week a truck from the Chuberry Turpentine Company collects mail and supplies in the next-door town of Paradise Chapel: occasionally a person bound for Noon City can catch a ride with the driver of the truck, Sam Radclif. It’s a rough trip no matter how you come, for these washboard roads will loosen up even brandnew cars pretty fast; and hitchhikers always find the going bad. Also, this is lonesome country; and here in the swamplike hollows where tiger lilies bloom the size of a man’s head, there are luminous green logs that shine under the dark marsh water like drowned corpses; often the only movement on the landscape is winter smoke winding out the chimney of some sorry-looking farmhouse, or a wing-stiffened bird, silent and arrow-eyed, circling over the black deserted pinewoods.

Two roads pass over the hinterlands into Noon City; one from the north, another from the south; the latter, known as the Paradise Chapel Highway, is the better of the pair, though both are much the same: desolate miles of swamp and field and forest stretch along either route, unbroken except for scattered signs advertising Red Dot 5¢ Cigars, Dr. Pepper, NEHI, Grove’s Chill Tonic, and 666. Wooden bridges spanning brackish creeks named for long-gone Indian tribes rumble like far-off thunder under a passing wheel; herds of hogs and cows roam the roads at will; now and then a farm-family pauses from work to wave as an auto whizzes by, and watch sadly till it disappears in red dust.

One sizzling day in early June the Turpentine Company’s driver, Sam Radclif, a big balding six-footer with a rough, manly face, was gulping a beer at the Morning Star Café in Paradise Chapel when the proprietor came over with his arm around this stranger-boy.

“Hiya, Sam,” said the proprietor, a fellow called Sydney Katz. “Got a kid here that’d be obliged if you could give him a ride to Noon City. Been trying to get there since yesterday. Think you can help?”

Radclif eyed the boy over the rim of his beer glass, not caring much for the looks of him. He had his notions of what a “real” boy should look like, and this kid somehow offended them. He was too pretty, too delicate and fair-skinned; each of his features was shaped with a sensitive accuracy, and a girlish tenderness softened his eyes, which were brown and very large. His brown hair, cut short, was streaked with pure yellow strands. A kind of tired, imploring expression masked his thin face, and there was an unyouthful sag about his shoulders. He wore long, wrinkled white linen breeches, a limp blue shirt, the collar of which was open at the throat, and rather scuffed tan shoes.

Wiping a mustache of foam off his upper lips, Radclif said: “What’s you name, son?”

“Joel. Jo-el Har-ri-son Knox.” He separated the syllables explicitly, as though he thought the driver deaf, but his voice was uncommonly soft.

“That so?” drawled Radclif, placing his dry beer glass on the counter. “A mighty fancy name, Mister Knox.”

The boy blushed and turned to the proprietor, who promptly intervened: “This is a fine boy, Sam. Smart as a whip. Knows words you and me never heard of.”

Radclif was annoyed. “Here, Katz,” he ordered, “fillerup.” After the proprietor trundled away to fetch a second beer, Sam said kindly, “Didn’t mean to tease you, son. Where bouts you from?”

“New Orleans,” he said. “I left there Thursday and got here Friday . . . and that was as far as I could go; no one come to meet me.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Radclif. “Visiting folks in Noon City?”

The boy nodded. “My father. I’m going to live with him.”

Radclif raised his eyes ceilingward, mumbled “Knox” several times, then shook his head in a baffled manner. “Nope, don’t think I know anybody by that name. Sure you’re in the right place?”

“Oh, yes,” said the boy without alarm. “Ask Mister Katz, he’s heard about my father, and I showed him the letters and . . . wait.” He hurried back among the tables of the gloomy café, and returned toting a huge tin suitcase that, judging by his grimace, was extremely heavy. The suitcase was colorful with faded souvenir stickers from remote parts of the globe: Paris, Cairo, Venice, Vienna, Naples, Hamburg, Bombay, and so forth. It was an odd thing to see on a hot day in a town the size of Paradise Chapel.

“You been all them places?” asked Radclif.

“No-o-o,” said the boy, struggling to undo a worn-out leather strap which held the suitcase together. “It belonged to my grandfather; that was Major Knox: you’ve read about him in history books, I guess. He was a prominent figure in the Civil War. Anyway, this is the valise he used on his wedding trip around the world.”

“Round the world, eh?” said Radclif, impressed. “Musta been a mighty rich man.”

“Well, that was a long time ago.” He rummaged through his neatly packed possessions till he found a slim package of letters. “Here it is,” he said, selecting one in a watergreen envelope.

Radclif fingered the letter a moment before opening it; but presently, with clumsy care, he extracted a green sheet of tissue-like paper and, moving his lips, read:

Edw. R. Sansom, Esq. Skully’s Landing May 18, 19—

My dear Ellen Kendall,

I am in your debt for answering my letter so quickly; indeed, by return post. Yes, hearing from me after twelve years must have seemed strange, but I can assure you sufficient reason prompted this long silence. However, reading in the Times-Picayune, to the Sunday issue of which we subscribe, of my late wife’s passing, may God the Almighty rest her gentle soul, I at once reasoned the honorable thing could only be to again assume my paternal duties, forsaken, lo, these many years. Both the present Mrs Sansom and myself are happy (nay, overjoyed!) to learn you are willing to concede our desire, though, as you remark, your heart will break in doing so. Ah, how well I sympathize with the sorrow such a sacrifice may bring, having experienced similar emotions when, after that final dreadful affair, I was forced to take leave of my only child, whom I treasured, while he was still no more than an infant. But that is all of the lost past. Rest assured, good lady, we here at the Landing have a beautiful home, healthful food, and a cultured atmosphere with which to provide my son.

As to the journey: we are anxious Joel reach here no later than June First. Now when he leaves New Orleans he should travel via train to Biloxi, at which point he must disembark and purchase a bus ticket for Paradise Chapel, a town some twenty miles south of Noon City. We have at present no mechanical vehicle; therefore, I suggest he remain overnight in P.C. where rooms are let above the Morning Star Café, until appropriate arrangements can be made. Enclosed please find a cheque covering such expenses as all this may incur.

Yrs. Respct. Edw. R. Sansom

The proprietor arrived with the beer just as Radclif, frowning puzzledly, sighed and tucked the paper back in its envelope. There were two things about this letter that bothered him; first of all, the handwriting: penned in ink the rusty color of dried blood, it was a maze of curlicues and dainty i’s dotted with daintier o’s. What the hell kind of a man would write like that? And secondly: “If your Pa’s named Sansom, how come you call yourself Knox?”

The boy stared at the floor embarrassedly. “Well,” he said, and shot Radclif a swift, accusing look, as if the driver was robbing him of something, “they were divorced, and mother always called me Joel Knox.”

“Aw, say, son,” said Radclif, “you oughtn’t to have let her done that! Remember, your Pa’s your Pa no matter what.”

The proprietor avoided a yearning glance for help which the boy now cast in his direction by having wandered off to attend another customer. “But I’ve never seen him,” said Joel, dropping the letters into his suitcase and buckling up the strap. “Do you know where this place is? Skully’s Landing?”

“The Landing?” Radclif said. “Sure, sure I know all about it.” He took a deep swallow of beer, let forth a mighty belch, and grinned. “Yessir, if I was your Pa I’d take down your britches and muss you up a bit.” Then, draining the glass, he slapped a half-dollar on the counter, and stood meditatively scratching his hairy chin till a wall clock sounded the hour four: “O.K., son, let’s shove,” he said, starting briskly towards the door.

After a moment’s hesitation the boy lifted his suitcase and followed.

“Come see us again,” called the proprietor automatically.

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Other Voices, Other Rooms 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only Capote can write in such a way that I feel I have left my chair and joined the character and his world. While reading this I reached a passage that stirred an emotion that I have only felt once before and that was while reading To Kill a Mockingbird. l wonder what really should determine who a work belongs to. Is it whose story it is or is it who tells the story.
Jose J. Ortiz More than 1 year ago
Capote was a gifted and brilliant writer. His imagery is out of this world; it grabs you and doesn't let go until it drowns you with vivid and colorful impressions of the world that surrounds you. By all means, treat yourself to this masterpiece. Books like this only bloom once in a century.
hms More than 1 year ago
Just read it, it's amazing.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh, Truman - what happened to you?This book is beautifully written, tells a beautiful, bittersweet story, and is a painful read when you think of what its author became. I'm not sure how he made it from the young man that wrote this amazing and beautiful book to the caricatured flaming celebrity-worshiping queen of his later years. In this, his first book, the depth of his talent is enormous and apparent and I finished it thinking of how sad it all makes me.Wonderful Southern gothic characters in this one - the transvestite uncle, the evil stepmother, the quadriplegic father and the circumstances of his injury, the wonderfully realized Jesus Fever and his daughter, Zoo, and Idabel who is Scout/Harper Lee by any other name. All the yearnings of adolescence trapped in that crumbling old house down at The Landing. The book is steeped in loneliness throughout and in the search for and sacredness of love in all its myriad forms. In the end, the narrator is as liberated as the adults around him are trapped.
Edith1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked it a lot, mostly because of the style, not so much for the strange story. (Boy is sent to his father's house after his mother dies. It turns out his father is dying too, and everyone else is crazy.)
Erikayumi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The intriguing characters stand out most in this Beautifully written coming of age tale set in the south. I recommend you take your time with it- read it slowly.
Ardwick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slow but enjoyable book about a chidl that looses his mother and goes to stay with his father only to find that his new family is dysfunctional. His father is bed bound and barely communicates and his uncle is disinhibited and grasping. His father has remarried an odd woman and his only friends are a tomboy and the eccentric black housekeeper.
CarlaR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is Truman's first published and it feels like it. That's not to say that the book was bad in any way, it just didn't feel fine-tuned like his others. The imagery was wonderful, but the characters seem underdeveloped (which seems funny since this is supposed to be semi-autobiographical. The main character Joel, who was abandoned by his father at birth, is sent back to live with his father when his mother dies. In the house of his father are some very quirky relatives. If you can imagine a coming-of-age book being set in the deep south then you pretty much have an idea of how this book goes. I am glad I read it, but prefer his other books.
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is very very Southern, vague, Faulkneresque, and inaccessible. But I really liked it. The South's dark weirdness that can exist without even being questioned is brilliantly captured. My husband and I disagree about the meaning of the ending, but I won't spoil it. I found it horrific, while my husband found it hopeful. So you'll have to decide for youself. I recommend this book, but take your time and re-read when you're lost or you will miss things that are critical to the plot.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Truman Capote¿s first novel is gothic and mysterious. Thirteen year old Joel Knox (I couldn¿t help making the connection between Joel¿s last name and the saying: `The school of hard knocks.¿) is sent to live with a father he has never met, deep in the south and among bizarre people. Joel travels alone, arriving in the town of Noon City where he is eventually retrieved by an elderly black man named Jesus Fever. Together they travel the gloomy, dark night road behind the stubborn mule John Brown, until they reach Skully¿s Landing - the home of Joel¿s father.The first half of the novel introduces most of the main characters - from Idabel (the strange little girl who dresses like a boy) to Amy (Joel¿s stepmother who likes to kill birds) to cousin Randolph (the effeminate relative with a dark history) to the likable Zoo (the black servant with an angry red scar slashed across her throat). Joel does not meet his father immediately, and when he does it is a shocking discovery. This part of the story engaged me with its gothic images, ghostly sightings and vivid dialogue. Capote¿s description of Skully¿s Landing was sharp and creepy.But as the book passes the midway point, it begins to waver and become nearly impossible to comprehend. The characters warp into strange and frightening people. Cousin Randolph spends a lot of time telling Joel stories that seem to have layers and layers of meaning. A lesbian midget shows signs of being a pedophile. A long night, involving a cottonmouth snake and a carnival ride, ends with an unexplained illness. And I began to wonder whether Capote was dropping acid while he wrote. The imagery is circular, dreamlike and unconnected to the story line.I like gothic novels with creepy story lines and suspense. Other Voices Other Rooms had the potential, with Capote¿s gift of stringing words together, to be a breathtaking work¿but it fell short for me. It was too convoluted and confusing. Reviews and analysis I have read about the novel suggest it is a story about coming of age - but, it is a rough ride¿and seemed to be more of a look through the pages of an abnormal psychology text.I had a hard time rating this one. Capote¿s prose is sometimes beautiful - he is an exacting writer - yet the plot was too weird for my liking. I don¿t know many (if any) readers to whom I could recommend this one.
BinnieBee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was interesting to read, mainly because I had read Capote's biography.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a thoughtbul book from Capote that fully wraps you up in its characters. While it starts slowly, the book comes together into something of a coming of age tale that has both gothic and classic souther lit. qualities. It isn't very suspenseful or something that will be a nonstop page turner, but it is a quiet escape with a fine story. Recommended.
chris227 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting but a little hard to follow. It is the story of a child searching for belonging and finding himself in a household full of strange happenings and even stranger people. Truman Capote holds the reader's attention but at times the story just seems a convoluted twist of events that don't quite make sense, but then maybe that it what it is supposed to be!
paperhouses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Divine, divine, divine! You can wallow in this book.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first foray into Capote's works gave me some understanding as to why people have theorized he was the true author of To Kill a Mockingbird. There's a similar feel, there's a similar setting, there's a similar style. But, the authors also grew up in a similar setting, so I could understand the resemblance. For Capote's work, it's a beautiful piece even though it has decay as its theme. There's mental, emotional and spiritual decay all introduced and advancing throughout the story. There's also physical decay of not just the characters, but the setting. With the exception of Mr. Samson, every character loses a bit of themselves during the course of the story (Samson's loss is recounted as a recounting of a past event). Yet, to reiterate, Capote's language is so poetic and haunting, it really is a beautiful piece and I can easily understand why there was so much excitement preceding the publication of his first novel.
knittingfreak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is semi-autobiographical. Capote wrote this novel when he was very young -- around 22 (I think), and it has all the characteristics of good Southern Lit. According to Maggie, it passes the true test -- "the dead mule." I'm also using this one for her Southern Reading Challenge. The story begins with 13-year old Joel Knox trying to deal with the loss of his mother. He's been living with his aunt since his mother's death, but his estranged father has now summoned him to come live with him in New Orleans. Joel is excited to meet his father, but things certainly don't turn out the way he envisions them. If you're not familiar with Southern Lit., happy endings can be rare.After a long journey in which Joel has to catch a ride with a stranger and then make his way to Skully's Landing on the back of a wagon in the middle of the night, he's disappointed when his father isn't there to meet him. Instead, he meets his stepmother, Amy and Zoo Fever, the family's servant. In fact, it will be quite a long while before he meets his father. Everyone ignores his questions about his father. The only evidence that there is anyone else in the house is a 'knocking' sound and a red tennis ball that occasionally bounces down the stairs.Everyone in the story is damaged in some way -- physically, mentally or emotionally. Zoo bears a long scar across her neck, but it's not this physical scar that torments her. Instead, it's the emotional one that accompanies it. She is crippled by fear of what may happen to her. Other characters that are out of the ordinary include, a midget with an apparent tendency towards pedophilia, a recluse with special healing powers, a tomboy (Joel's only friend) with an anger management problem, and the flamboyant Cousin Randolph who is eating and drinking himself to death as he pines over his one true love.I enjoyed this story a great deal. I think this is a wonderful first novel that showcases a talent that was truly extraordinary. I'm glad I read this one.
presto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Following the death of his mother, thirteen year old Joel Knox travels to Alabama to live with his estranged father in a large, remote and decaying house where also live his step mother and cousin Randolph. He has never meet his father, and it seems upon arrival that he is not likely to meet him soon either, but that is just one of the many mysteries that will trouble young Joel, who is fast beginning to think is move South is at best a disaster, and at worst a betrayal.But he finds friends in the form of a neighbour the rough and ready young tomboy Idabel, in Zoo the black help, and a black hermit who works charms. But he is also drawn to homosexual cousin Randolph; and his somewhat girlish good looks enamour him to most of those he meets.Other Voices, Other Rooms is a beautiful story, as much from the way it is told as its content, rich in remarkable and imaginative metaphors that create a steamy atmosphere of the hot South; subtle in its depiction of the coming Joel's awareness of homosexuality; and full of insight - it is a most moving and captivating read, all the more remarkable considering the young age of its author, his first book.This Penguin Classics 2004 edition contains an interesting introduction by John Berendt which adds much to our understanding of the novel, not least of which is its autobiographical content.
LarryDarrell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Capote's first novel. The story of a boy (Joel Knox) who moves from New Orleans to a lonely and decayed southern estate to finally meet his father. He finds a mystery at his new home, and a cast of haunted characters. The book is largely about gender and sexuality. His uncle sometimes dresses as a society woman, his best friend wishes she were a boy, and Joel himself wrestles with his nascent (homo)sexuality. Not as engaging as some of Capote's other stuff, but still a telling book by an amazing writer.
jennyo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Continuing my Capote binge, I decided I'd read his first novel. Can't remember if I read this one lots of years ago or not. If I did, I probably didn't understand it all; I was pretty naive. It's a heartbreaking story though. And, from what I understand, very much autobiographical. In the interview book I just read, Capote said that different parts of his personality inhabit all of these characters. I'm assuming he means except for Idabel who's obviously Harper Lee.My favorite quote from the book: p. 147 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.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How can I describe it? It\'s like waking from fevered dreams to find yourself in a bathtub filled with molasses and blood, and flies crawling in and out of your eyes, your nose, the corners of your mouth. It is unpleasant.
Sarah_Geller More than 1 year ago
This is one of my all time favorite books. I read it in high school, and again recently, and it was even better than I remembered.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote Joel Harrison Knox is a 13 y/o boy who lived in New Orleans, LA. Surrounded by a cast of characters like Mr. Mystery - an artist magician who played in vaudeville houses in New Orleans, Annie Rose Kupperman - another artist, and family - his mother, his aunt and friends. All this comes to an end after Joel's mother dies and his estranged father, Edw. R. Sanford, Esq sends a letter and money requesting Joel to come live at Skully's Landing, somewhere near Noon City. Mr. Sansom has married Amy Skully and the letter says she is also happy to have Joel live with them. It becomes clear early enough that there is something wrong. When Joel arrives to Noon City, there is no one waiting for him. After catching a ride to Skully's Landing, he is unable to see his father. His step mother, Amy, keeps telling Joel it's not time yet. Joel has to face life in a house without electricity or plumbing, filled with characters: Miss Amy, and his clever and cousin Randolph, their black "maid" Missouri (Zoo) Fever, and Zoo's ancient grandfather Jesus Fever. Joel's father is in the house too, but not in the form he anticipated. He's an invalid that must be taken care of 24/7. Little Sunshine, a hermit, and two local girls, Twin sisters Florabel and the wild tomboy Idabel Thompkins, round out the players and are Joel's allies in a threatening world of perversity, mental instability, and sexual ambiguity. The story is filled with ghosts, dreams and a series of comical events; at times it really feels like Capote is putting on a human freak show for the thrill-seeking reader. He leads us through a world of decaying old buildings and broken spirits. But Capote always respects the essential humanity of his troubled characters. Narrated from the third person universal point of view, the story is told in a beautifully lyric style. The main theme is sexuality, love, and gender identity. Capote establishes this theme early on in his description of the main character, Joel, who is described as not looking like a "'real' boy": "He was too pretty, too delicate and fair-skinned." Afterwards we find out that cousin Randolph was in love with Pepe Alvarez. "The brain may take the advice. but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries...any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves..." Raymond om pages 118-9. Time is another theme. Joel states: "Amy, Randolph, his father, they were all outside of time, all circling the present like spirits: was this why they seemed to him like a dream?" And Randolph adds: "Have you never heard what wise men say: all of the future exists in the past." Loneliness is a another theme. Randolph says to Joel: "But we are alone, darling child, terribly, isolated each from the other." p119 Physical beauty and identity is depicted as a reflection in mirrors: "They can romanticize us so, mirrors, and that is their secret: what a subtle torture it would be to destroy all the mirrors in the world: where then could we look for reassurance of our identities?" Randolph on page 113. A great read. Capote delivers a novel that will forever live with the reader as a voice in the rooms of the soul. It is an exquisitely sad voice but not one that should ever be silenced.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found myself emerged in the story...great visual writing.
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