A landmark collection that brings together Truman Capote’s life’s work in the form he called his “great love,” The Complete Stories confirms Capote’s status as a master of the short story.
Ranging from the gothic South to the chic East Coast, from rural children to aging urban sophisticates, all the unforgettable places and people of Capote’s oeuvre are here, in stories as elegant as they are heartfelt, as haunting as they are compassionate. Reading them reminds us of the miraculous gifts of a beloved American original.
About the Author
REYNOLDS PRICE is the James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University and the distinguished author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, poetry, drama, and essays. He lives in North Carolina.
Date of Birth:September 30, 1924
Date of Death:August 25, 1984
Place of Birth:New Orleans, Louisiana
Place of Death:Los Angeles, California
Education:Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York City and Greenwich High School in Connecticut
Read an Excerpt
Capote: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF TRUMAN CAPOTE
The Walls Are Cold
“. . . so Grant just said to them come on along to a wonderful party, and, well it was as easy as that. Really, I think it was just genius to pick them up, God only knows they might resurrect us from the grave.” The girl who was talking tapped her cigarette ash on the Persian throw rug and looked apologetically at her hostess.
The hostess straightened her trim, black dress and pursed her lips nervously. She was very young and small and perfect. Her face was pale and framed with sleek black hair, and her lipstick was a trifle too dark. It was after two and she was tired and wished they would all go, but it was no small task to rid yourself of some thirty people, particularly when the majority were full of her father’s scotch. The elevator man had been up twice to complain about the noise; so she gave him a highball, which is all he is after anyway. And now the sailors . . . oh, the hell with it.
“It’s all right, Mildred, really. What are a few sailors more or less? God, I hope they don’t break anything. Would you go back in the kitchen and see about ice, please? I’ll see what I can do with your new-found friends.”
“Really, darling, I don’t think it’s at all necessary. From what I understand, they acclimate themselves very easily.”
The hostess went toward her sudden guests. They were knotted together in one corner of the drawing-room, just staring and not looking very much at home.
The best looking of the sextet turned his cap nervously and said, “We didn’t know it was any kind of party like this, Miss. I mean, you don’t want us, do you?”
“Of course you’re welcome. What on earth would you be doing here if I didn’t want you?”
The sailor was embarrassed.
“That girl, that Mildred and her friend just picked us up in some bar or other and we didn’t have any idea we was comin’ to no house like this.”
“How ridiculous, how utterly ridiculous,” the hostess said. “You are from the South, aren’t you?”
He tucked his cap under his arm and looked more at ease. “I’m from Mississippi. Don’t suppose you’ve ever been there, have you, Miss?”
She looked away toward the window and ran her tongue across her lips. She was tired of this, terribly tired of it. “Oh, yes,” she lied. “A beautiful state.”
He grinned. “You must be mixed up with some other place, Miss. There sure’s not a lot to catch the eye in Mississippi, ’cept maybe around Natchez way.”
“Of course, Natchez. I went to school with a girl from Natchez. Elizabeth Kimberly, do you know her?”
“No, can’t say as I do.”
Suddenly she realized that she and the sailor were alone; all of his mates had wandered over to the piano where Les was playing Porter. Mildred was right about the acclimation.
“Come on,” she said, “I’ll fix you a drink. They can shift for themselves. My name’s Louise, so please don’t call me Miss.”
“My sister’s name’s Louise, I’m Jake.”
“Really, isn’t that charming? I mean the coincidence.” She smoothed her hair and smiled with her too dark lips.
They went into the den and she knew the sailor was watching the way her dress swung around her hips. She stooped through the door behind the bar.
“Well,” she said, “what will it be? I forgot, we have scotch and rye and rum; how about a nice rum and coke?”
“If you say so,” he grinned, sliding his hand along the mirrored bar’s surface, “you know, I never saw a place like this before. It’s something right out of a movie.”
She whirled ice swiftly around in a glass with a swizzle stick. “I’ll take you on a forty-cent tour if you like. It’s quite large, for an apartment, that is. We have a country house that’s much, much bigger.”
That didn’t sound right. It was too supercilious. She turned and put the bottle of rum back in its niche. She could see in the mirror that he was staring at her, perhaps through her.
“How old are you?” he asked.
She had to think for a minute, really think. She lied so constantly about her age she sometimes forgot the truth herself. What difference did it make whether he knew her real age or not? So she told him.
“And never been kissed . . . ?”
She laughed, not at the cliché but her answer.
“Raped, you mean.”
She was facing him and saw that he was shocked and then amused and then something else.
“Oh, for God’s sake, don’t look at me that way, I’m not a bad girl.” He blushed and she climbed back through the door and took his hand. “Come on, I’ll show you around.”
She led him down a long corridor intermittently lined with mirrors, and showed him room after room. He admired the soft, pastel rugs and the smooth blend of modernistic with period furniture.
“This is my room,” she said, holding the door open for him, “you mustn’t mind the mess, it isn’t all mine, most of the girls have been fixing in here.”
There was nothing for him to mind, the room was in perfect order. The bed, the tables, the lamp were all white but the walls and the rug were a dark, cold green.
“Well, Jake . . . what do you think, suit me?”
“I never saw anything like it, my sister wouldn’t believe me if I told her . . . but I don’t like the walls, if you’ll pardon me for saying so . . . that green . . . they look so cold.”
She looked puzzled and not knowing quite why, she reached out her hand and touched the wall beside her dressing-table.
“You’re right, the walls I mean, they are cold.” She looked up at him and for a moment her face was molded in such an expression he was not quite sure whether she was going to laugh or cry.
“I didn’t mean it that way. Hell, I don’t rightly know what I mean!”
“Don’t you, or are we just being euphemistic?” It drew a blank so she sat down on the side of her white bed.
“Here,” she said, “sit down and have a cigarette, what ever happened to your drink?”
He sat down beside her. “I left it out in the bar. It sure seems quiet back here after all that racket in front.”
“How long have you been in the navy?”
“It isn’t much concern whether you like it or not. . . . I’ve seen a lot of places that I wouldn’t otherwise.”
“Why did you enlist then?”
“Oh, I was going to be drafted and the navy seemed more to my likin’.”
“Well, I tell you, I don’t take to this kind of life, I don’t like other men bossin’ me around. Would you?”
She didn’t answer but put a cigarette in her mouth instead. He held the match for her and she let her hand brush against his. His hand was trembling and the light was not very steady. She inhaled and said, “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”
She watched him intently and saw the slow, red spread over his face.
“Why don’t you?”
“You’re not that kind of girl. I’d be scared to kiss a girl like you, ’sides, you’re only making fun out of me.”
She laughed and blew the smoke in a cloud toward the ceiling. “Stop it, you sound like something out of a gaslight melodrama. What is ‘that kind of girl,’ anyway? Just an idea. Whether you kiss me or not isn’t of the slightest importance. I could explain, but why bother? You’d probably end up thinking I’m a nymphomaniac.”
“I don’t even know what that is.”
“Hell, that’s what I mean. You’re a man, a real man and I’m so sick of these weak, effeminate boys like Les. I just wanted to know what it would be like, that’s all.”
He bent over her. “You’re a funny kid,” he said, and she was in his arms. He kissed her and his hand slid down along her shoulder and pressed against her breast.
She twisted and gave him a violent shove and he went sprawling across the cold, green rug.
She got up and stood over him and they stared at each other. “You dirt,” she said. Then she slapped his bewildered face.
She opened the door, paused, and straightened her dress and went back to the party. He sat on the floor for a moment, then he got up and found his way to the foyer and then remembered that he had left his cap in the white room, but he didn’t care, all he wanted was to get out of here.
The hostess looked inside the drawing-room and motioned for Mildred to come out.
“For God’s sake, Mildred, get these people out of here; those sailors, what do they think this is . . . the USO?”
“What’s the matter, was that guy bothering you?”
“No, no, he’s just a small town moron who’s never seen anything like this before and it’s gone to his head in a funny kind of way. It’s just one awful bore and I have a headache. Will you get them out for me please . . . everybody?”
She nodded and the hostess turned back down the corridor and went into her mother’s room. She lay down on the velvet chaise lounge and stared at the Picasso abstract. She picked up a tiny lace pillow and pushed it against her face as hard as she could. She was going to sleep here tonight, here where the walls were pale rose and warm.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Usable Answers by Reynolds Price
The Walls Are Cold (1943)
A Mink of One’s Own (1944)
The Shape of Things (1944)
Jug of Silver (1945)
My Side of the Matter (1945)
Preacher’s Legend (1945)
A Tree of Night (1945)
The Headless Hawk (1946)
Shut a Final Door (1947)
Children on Their Birthdays (1948)
Master Misery (1949)
The Bargain (1950)
A Diamond Guitar (1950)
House of Flowers (1951)
A Christmas Memory (1956)
Among the Paths to Eden (1960)
The Thanksgiving Visitor (1967)
One Christmas (1982)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Beautiful collection. Loved every one of them . A must read for lovers of short stories.
I have to say that this is my favorite compilation OF ALL TIME. Capote is the most gifted writer the world has ever seen and will probably ever know. His spirit and his genius are unparalleled by any other writer. Nobody knows how to characterize hicks, socialites, pre-adolescents, or the elderly the way he can and this is just the book to prove that point. He has even inspired me to travel and write some location sketches of my own. These stories are at times poignant, other times bitter--but always ALWAYS thought-provoking and reflective. I definitely prefer this book to 'In Cold Blood' perhaps I felt his writing had lost a little of its grace and musicality with his non-fictional account... then again, he was reporting on the heinous murders of an innocent family, so this change of style was probably more appropriate and effective. Every one please pick up 'The Complete Stories of Truman Capote'!!!
I really enjoy Capote's writing. A book group friend of mine brought this for a book exchange one year, and it ended up in my lucky hands. I've been reading bits of it here and there for over two years now. It's the type of book that you can pick up and put down and not really lose anything from it. Open to any page and you will be swept away. Some of the stories included are: * A Tree of Night * A Christmas Memory (my fave) * The Thanksgiving Visitor You can actually purchase A Christmas Memory on its own and it would make a wonderful gift for a loved one. It's about the love shared between two friends and is largely autobiographical. It's touching and sad but wonderful too. It's a gentle reminder of what's special about Christmas. It's my favorite story. I love it. If you aren't sure what to get for that picky reader this year, pick up this collection. You can't go wrong. There is something for everyone here.
I highly recomend Truman Capote's composition of stories. Written very nicely, both captivating and mesmorizing.
This is a book of Capote's short stories and he is a master at the short story. In each one there was "someone" I knew or I knew someone who had a "someone" in one of his stories. Wonderful. I would recommend this book to any and everyone. I loved it. I cannot wait to read more of his work.
For the most part, I liked these stories. I'm not big on short stories but a friend gave me this book for Christmas and I thought it rude if I didn't read it. I'm glad I did. My favorite story in the book was "A Christmas Memory". I found the story very touching and myself getting emotional (which is wierd because that doesn't usually happen to me). The book is an easy read and enjoyable.
Truman Capote¿s favorite form was said to be the short story, and some of these stories stand out as nearly perfect examples of the genre. Arranged in chronological order, it is easy to see the evolution of his work. One of special interest is his career breakout story, ¿Miriam,¿ which was discussed breathlessly at cocktail parties when it was first published in 1945 (in the days when magazine fiction could elicit that kind of excitement). ¿Miriam¿ has a haunting quality, a hint of evil forces or madness that other stories share. Most are set in New York apartments, but my favorites were the ones set elsewhere, especially those that seemed to grow out of his southern boyhood, those that illustrate his brilliant mastery of voice (sometimes to humorous effect), and the memoir pieces, including "A Christmas Memory," "The Thanksgiving Visitor" and "One Christmas." This is an intriguing collection of stories from one of the great American writers.
Truman Capote has a particular style that draws you into the telling. His descriptions of characters, in particular resonates in your head - you can see their behaviors clearly. Some stories such as Master Misery and Miriam give you shivers. The story "A Christmas Memory" is a beautiful tale which evokes images of a bygone era.
The arc of any collection that contains the complete output of short stories from one author (and is presented in the order in which they appeared) invariably falls into this patter ¿ attempts, success, degradation. Few authors jump from Zeus¿s skull full-formed. Similarly, few seem to reach their peak then instantly quit. This isn¿t to say that some don¿t start quite good, and others don¿t stop while still expanding ¿ there is just seldom greatness throughout the spectrum.There is a similar sense of this happening in this collection. However, it is quickly evident that the range of quality is much more consistent ¿ the beginning starts at a very high level and the ending has little drop-off. At the outset, it doesn¿t take long before the skill and talent (assuredly two different things) becomes evident. With ¿Jug of Silver¿, Capote begins to explore his Southern past and provides us an engrossing story of a small town, a contest to guess the number of coins, and the strange child who insists he knows the answer. The stories grow from there including my personal favorites ¿Miriam¿ about a lonely lady and the child that discovers her, ¿Preacher¿s Legend¿ about an old black man who only thinks he is so old he wants to die, and ¿Master Misery¿ about a man who is buying dreams. And, I can¿t forget ¿Children and Their Birthdays¿ which starts by telling you exactly how it will end but, by the time you get there, you are still shocked (and I must admit I almost laughed out loud.) The famous stories are here also ¿ ¿A Diamond Guitar¿, ¿House of Flowers¿, and ¿A Christmas Memory¿ ¿ and it is interesting to note that these are almost at the end of the collection. Because, while it is true the last couple of stories may not be the strongest, they are still good.Which all speaks to the fact that the arc of stories for Capote is way too short. Yes, that means he jumped quickly to the heights of story-telling and there was little drop off, but how much more might there have been? Capote was an unusual man, and this collection exhibits the varying parts of his life (as told through fiction) that help build this strange little man. That he can span the gamut of those types speaks to how good he was.
The Short of It:This is a wonderful collection of stories. Meaningful and thought-provoking. Perfect for this time of year.The Rest of It:I really enjoy Capote¿s writing. A book group friend of mine brought this for a book exchange one year, and it ended up in my lucky hands. I¿ve been reading bits of it here and there for over two years now. It¿s the type of book that you can pick up and put down and not really lose anything from it. Open to any page and you will be swept away. Some of the stories included are: * A Tree of Night * A Christmas Memory (my fave) * The Thanksgiving VisitorYou can actually purchase A Christmas Memory on its own and it would make a wonderful gift for a loved one. It¿s about the love shared between two friends and is largely autobiographical. It¿s touching and sad but wonderful too. It¿s a gentle reminder of what¿s special about Christmas. It¿s my favorite story. I love it.If you aren¿t sure what to get for that picky reader this year, pick up this collection. You can¿t go wrong. There is something for everyone here.
The unfortunate thing about Capote is that many will remember him for his antics and flamboyant social life rather than the remarkable novels, short stories, and novellas he wrote. Of course BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS comes to mind, as does the favorite IN COLD BLOOD, but Capote was much, much more. One of his best efforts is his first novella, OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS. In addition, each and every one of his short stories is a gem, perfectly crafted and suited to its subject matter. From ¿The Walls are Cold¿ to the evocative and memorable ¿One Christmas,¿ Capote captures perfectly mood, character, and all the nuances that are life. This is the most up-to-date collection and anyone even remotely interested in TC will want to have this on their shelf. If you¿re interested in Capote, you¿ll surely want to check out two books by a writer who has written extensively on and about him. McCrae¿s ¿DOGWOOD,¿ with its myriad Capote references (even the main character is named for Capote), will surely delight and disturb, just as TC himself did. And in the true Capote vein, McCrae¿s ¿Dogwood,¿ can¿t be missed. This writer was so obviously influenced by TC that it sometimes shows a little too much¿right down to the incredible stories set in New Orleans and Alabama. But all of that is secondary to this stellar collection of Capote¿s work. Amazing, that we¿re still finding out just how brilliantly Truman Capote¿s star actually is, even all these years after it first made its way into the universe.