The collected stories of Truman Capote

by Truman Capote

Hardcover, 2004




New York : Random House ,2004.


Most readers know Truman Capote as the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood; or they remember his notorious social life and wild and witty public appearances. But he was also the author of superb short tales that were as elegant as they were heartfelt, as grotesque as they were compassionate. Now, on the occasion of what would have been his eightieth birthday, the Modern Library presents the first collection that includes all of Capote's short fiction-a volume that confirms his status as one of the masters of this form. Among the selections are "A Tree of Night," in which an innocent student, sitting on a train beside a slatternly woman and her deaf-mute companion, enters a seductive nightmare that brings back the deepest fears of childhood ... "House of Flowers," the inspiration for a celebrated Broadway musical, which tells of a superstitious prostitute who learns to love in a way no one else can ever understand ... the holiday perennial "A Christmas Memory," famously adapted into a superb made-for-TV movie ... and "The Bargain," Capote's melancholy, never-before-published 1950 story about a suburban housewife's shifting fortunes. 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 captured in this first-ever compendium. The Collected Stories of Truman Capote should restore its author to a place above mere celebrity, to the highest levels of American letters.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member figre
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.
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LibraryThing member rainpebble
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.
LibraryThing member cattiecannslugg
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member tibobi
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 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.
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LibraryThing member CarltonC
The sentimental "A Christmas Memory" is a lovely semi-autobiographical Christmas tale featuring Buddy (Capote), 'my friend' ('Miss Sook') and Queenie (terrier), as do several more of the later stories, including the final 'One Christmas'. They capture a time and an emotion beautifully.
I have read these over a long period of time, so only the last stories are memorable.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookweaver
I thought Capote's earlier stories were interesting, but I didn't like them much. I did especially like his 3 about his childhood, but maybe I did because I knew they were about his childhood.
LibraryThing member kambrogi
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member bungo
I'm working through this at the moment. Capote provides lovely, startling descriptions of life in the American South in the 40s that jump out at me. Some of the stories, like "Miriam", are creepy ghost stories that could be X-Files episodes. Others leave me cold.
LibraryThing member AngelaJMaher
A collection of extraordinarily well written stories. Some make you think. Some end with you wondering what on earth had really been happening. I really enjoyed reading them. I recommend this book to anybody that likes a good story.
LibraryThing member Unkletom
I figured I had better hurry up and read my copy of The Complete Stories of Truman Capote while it’s still what it claims to be. In less than a month Random House will be releasing The Early Stories of Truman Capote, a collection of 14 previously unpublished stories written during Truman’s teens and twenties. I’m looking forward to seeing how they compare to the collection I jut finished.

This was a great collection of stories, one of the best by a single author that I have read. Even the least impressive stories herein are better than what many authors can produce.

It goes without saying that a character with as quirky a personality as Truman Capote is going to write stories that do not conform to most people’s expectations. Every story is vibrant and full of characters as well developed as they are unusual. Many are what one would call a slice-of-life sketch and even the ones that lack much plot are intriguing to read as one gets an almost voyeuristic sense that they are snooping into someone else’s life. Other stories read like something out of Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock. Three stories that do an especially good job of showing of the wickedly twisted side of Capote are Miriam, A Tree of Night and Children on their Birthdays.

My favorites, though, were the stories that border on autobiographical. A Christmas Memory was particularly touching. I don’t consider myself unemotional but I never in a million years would expect to find myself wiping my eyes after finishing a story about fruitcakes. Like I said, he’s good. Two other stories dealing with the holidays, The Thanksgiving Visitor and One Christmas offer even more insight into the life of young Truman.

Bottom line: If I was to assign school grades to each story, one or two would be a high C, four would get Bs and the remaining stories would all get A’s or A plus. If you have never read Truman Capote, or know him only from In Cold Blood, you really should treat yourself and read these stories.

FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
• 5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
• 4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.
• 3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered good or memorable.
• 2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending.
• 1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.
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LibraryThing member stef7sa
From this collection it becomes clear that Capote was not a true short story writer. There are some autobiographical stories in which the same elements reappear, there are some gothic fables which are rather artificial. The best stories are anecdotical and those where original and weird characters appear. Capote is very good in characterization and also succeeds in moving the reader in some cases. One of the wittiest stories ever is Among the Paths to Eden.… (more)
LibraryThing member DrApple
You forget how a great a write Truman Capote was until you pick up a piece of his writing and find you can't put it down. Although uneven, the stories in this collection overall are mesmerizing. He pulls you into an alternate universe where you actually care what happens to the characters, and he manages to do so in a few short pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
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.… (more)




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