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Although Truman Capote’s last, unfinished novel offers a devastating group portrait of the high and low society of his time.
Tracing the career of a writer of uncertain parentage and omnivorous erotic tastes, Answered Prayers careens from a louche bar in Tangiers to a banquette at La Côte Basque, from literary salons to high-priced whorehouses. It takes in calculating beauties and sadistic husbands along with such real-life supporting characters as Colette, the Duchess of Windsor, Montgomery Clift, and Tallulah Bankhead. Above all, this malevolently finny book displays Capote at his most relentlessly observant and murderously witty.
pictures, when really what had infuriated him was the pity implicit in my proffered assistance. THOUGH MISS SELF IS A most successful businesswoman, she certainly doesn’t squander on display. Her offices are four flights up in an elevatorless building. THE SELF SERVICE: a frosted-glass door with that inscription. But I hesitated (really, did I want to do this? Well, there wasn’t anything I’d rather do, at least to make money). I combed my hair, creased the trousers of a just-bought fifty-dollar
safe-deposit box somewhere, was seized by an ex-lover for malice or for profit, or even—the latest rumor—that Truman kept it in a locker in the Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Depot. But with every passing day these scenarios seem less plausible. The second theory is that after the publication of “Kate McCloud” in 1976 Truman never wrote another line of the book, perhaps partly because he was devastated by the public—and private—reaction to those chapters, perhaps partly because he came to realize
not answer and he would disappear for a week or more. I subscribe to this third theory not so much out of a reluctance to admit my gullibility, but because Truman was so convincing in his description of those chapters. Of course it is possible that those lines existed only in his head, but it is hard to believe that at some point he did not put them down on paper. He had great pride in his work, but also an unusual objectivity about it, and my suspicion is that at some point he destroyed every
disappeared (keep that in mind: it’s an important clue). Her name was Ann Cutler, and she looked rather like a malicious Betty Grable. She worked as a call girl for a pimp who was a bell captain at the Waldorf; and she saved her money and took voice lessons and dance lessons and ended up as the favorite lay of one of Frankie Costello’s shysters, and he always took her to El Morocco. It was during the war—1943—and Elmer’s was always full of gangsters and military brass. But one night an ordinary
the stars were in their correct constellation. It came unplanned—one night he went to a dinner party at the Cowleses’; Cleo had gone to a wedding in Boston. The governor’s wife was seated next to him at dinner; she, too, had come alone, the governor off campaigning somewhere. Dill joked, he dazzled; she sat there pig-eyed and indifferent, but she didn’t seem surprised when he rubbed his leg against hers, and when he asked if he might see her home, she nodded, not with much enthusiasm but with a