Truman Capote, who died last summer at the age of fifty-eight, was one of a handful of American novelists who became famous at a very early age in the years following the Second World War. Perhaps the three most celebrated of these writers were Gore Vidal (whose Williwaw appeared in 1946, when he was nineteen), Norman Mailer (whose The Naked and the Dead was issued two years later, when he was twenty-five), and Capote (who published Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1949, at the age of twenty-three). If Mailer and Vidal spent the early part of their careers climbing out of derivative ruts and attempting to find their own voices, Capote was an original from the start. This is not to suggest that he did not, in the manner of every young writer, learn from his antecedents. Other Rooms, Other Voices is riddled with Southern Gothic touches—grotesque characters, haunting scenes—that are reminiscent of Faulkner and...


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