DS Icon: Truman Capote
This week in DS Icons section we are going to be taking a look at someone you may or may not have heard of; Truman Capote. Who I hear you ask? Capote was an American author who wrote many short stories, nonfiction and plays during his 40-year career.
He spent much of his childhood moving around different places and was raised by a number of his family members. Capote began writing from a young age and said that it was something he would do when he finished school, so where as some children would have sport or the piano he had writing, and it’s a good job too he made a pretty good career out of it.
Truman Capote is also the inspiration behind the character of Dill in what is possibly one of the most famous books of all time, To Kill a mockingbird? This is due to his friendship with author Harper Lee at a very early age when they lived in the same neighborhood. You have to admit, that’s pretty remarkable that two extremely talented people were living in one place, and on top of that they were friends.
Capote shot to fame during the 1940s as he began to carve out a career for himself as a short story writer, and after one story caught the eye of a publisher it resulted in his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. Which contains many underlying themes towards coming of age and homosexuality and is also semi-autobiographical as it shows Capotes coming to terms with his own homosexuality. Which does classify him as a gay icon. This book subsequently launched him to fame and the book went on to spend nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He was partly launched to fame due to the controversy that surrounded the photo on the back of the book, which was interpreted in many ways. However the effect was lasting and Capote had finally made it in the world he was so keen to break into.
Fast-forward a few years into his career and we come to the book that was an inspiration for a movie that everyone will know; Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Yes the Audrey Hepburn starring movie of the 1960s was based on a novella written by this incredible author and was a complete turning point in his career, but greater success was yet to come. In 1966 he released the book Cold Blood, which he had spent six years working on, he even enlisted the help of friend Harper Lee. The book gained him a great deal of praise for the literary community, even though certain aspects were questioned. The book is considered to be his greatest work.
As a openly homosexual man who claimed to have had numerous sexual encounters with heterosexual men, you have to admire the boldness of Capote, considering this was long before homosexuality was accepted or even legal, also for putting the underlying themes in his written work that touches on homosexuality, this is why Truman Capote is certainly a modern day gay icon. Even more so if you’re not quite into big musical divas such as Barbra Streisand.
Capote sadly died of liver cancer in 1984, but he has had a number of posthumous releases. Following his death the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin was established and was to be funded by the revenues of his written work. The award also paid homage to his friend Newton Arvin, who was fired from his job after he was exposed as a homosexual.
And that is why he truly is not only a literary icon, but a gay icon too.