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Comments Total: 18
johnny strike
Jul 12 2011
7:18 am

Interesting piece. Curses obviously do work.

Regarding Paul Bowles and Burroughs it should be noted that they eventually did become quite good friends and stayed in touch throughout their lives. There is a last meeting with these two masters in their eighties captured in one of the Paul Bowles docs. Mailer also said something about the Bowles novel, The Sheltering Sky. That it bought in the drugs, the sex and the madness to literature, and it did. And Burroughs took those themes, turned them on their head and shot them into other dimensions.

Graham Rae
Jul 12 2011
12:25 pm

Totally fascinating piece, well-written and researched I would love to read the original two-page letter this is based on. Ah, these literary queens with their pissy hissy fits, whatcha gonna do with ‘em? Pity curses don’t really work. The world would be a much lighter, brighter, more spacious place.

William Todd Schultz
Jul 13 2011
9:44 am

Fabulous essay. The curse was all too successful. I actually just published a book on Capote’s Answered Prayers called “Tiny Terror,” which goes into additional reasons–besides the curse, which I wish I had known about before the book went to press!–for why TC failed so disastrously.

Dino Parino
Jul 14 2011
2:43 am

There’s something odd about the criticism tossed at Capote by Tynan, Burroughs and others in relation to In Cold Blood. It gets repeated but never reexamined. I find it strange that Capote gets knocked for not trying to “save” two men who had killed an entire family “in cold blood”–tortured all of them them and murdered them. Capote had great sympathy for both men but he never forgot what they had done. It just seems strange that the killers are somehow made out to be victims by Tynan and Burroughs and others…

johnny strike
Jul 14 2011
7:13 am

Both Burroughs and Tynan were for the abolition of capital punishment.

David Houston
Jul 14 2011
5:42 pm

Vidal v. Kerouac…”the two ended the night together in bed.” Don’t recall it being quite so romantic in the Palimpsest account: more a case of literary one-upmanship made flesh.

Jul 15 2011
12:00 am

Very good and interesting article. I am always fascinated by the lives and interactions of lierary giants. Thanks and good work!!

Jul 26 2011
12:43 am

Hey! Love this! ‘t really puts the “art” back in article Thanks a thousand and more Readers

Thom Robinson
Feb 14 2012
4:01 pm

I should note that Burroughs’ letter to Capote is now available to read in Bill Morgan’s edited collection Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1959-1974, where it is dated July 23 1970.

Aug 3 2012
11:43 pm

W.S.M. is,was, a great writer. capote,on the other hand, was a FAG. i wish i could have the the MAN. Rot In Peace…. Dear friend I never met.

Aug 4 2012
10:59 pm

Burroughs’ letter to Capote…


Aug 7 2012
1:23 am

“credulous believer”

Redundant and insulting. Burroughs was not a “credulous believer” in “curses” “at the time.” He was a practicing occultist, exuberant member of several occult organizations, and one of the key instigators of Chaos Magick. He wrote and lectured openly and frequently on magic, consciousness and the occult straight through to the end of his life. It was one of the primary influences on his work, with Gnosticism in particular informing virtually everything he wrote. That so many literary essayists and biographers are embarrassed on his behalf and feel the need to apologetically downplay this aspect of his life just shows us how ignorant and pathetically frightened of social disapproval these people are. Is it really so painfully and personally embarrassing that someone you admire believed something you don’t? At least “believed” is the way you’d phrase it from your point of view. I think it could be much more accurately stated that he knew something you don’t know.

Aug 11 2012
9:46 pm

Furthermore, you can now read the full letter at the excellent “Letters of Note” blog (which brought me here in the first place).


Thanks for a wonderful, informative post! If only they’d channeled that tabloidesque hatred into creative work…

Marc Furstenberg
Jul 5 2013
6:51 pm

Gee, I always thought it was me. I was selling an underground paper, The Seed, in front of the Picasso statue in the Civic Center one cold winter’s night and I saw this little mound of fur approach me, and it was Truman Capote. I offered him a copy, “Chicago Seed, Mr. Capote? He literally turned his nose up at the offer, flouncing away, saying, I never read those, the writing is always so bad, mincing off into the Chicago darkness. I wondered why a famous and successful writer would take the energy to insult some young guy like that, and I cursed him.

May 22 2014
5:57 pm

By what logic is it Capote’s responsibility to “save” cold blooded killers just because interviewed them? Even though he saw their tragedy, he seemed to know they still had to pay for their crimes. And it had to be a terrible emotional position to be in. But that’s the grown-up world. He may never have recovered (especially from watching the execution)because he’d bonded with Smith. No curse was necessary. That’s enough to conflict and haunt him, or anyone with a soul, for life.
What curse? All I see is Burroughs childishly dripping of jealously.

Aug 12 2014
5:09 pm

Burroughs was a hater. Never liked his work. Did not have the caustic wit to match Truman’s. Not even close. He seemed a very bitter man.

Aug 28 2014
1:22 pm

I saw a press screening of this film recently, and was highly impressed by its moving account of the period in Truman Capote’s life during which he wrote ‘In Cold Blood’. The direction by the relatively unknown Bennett Miller is personal, evocative and affecting, but without being over-dramatic or saccharine. This is helped immensely by Philip Seymour Hoffmann’s incredible performance as Capote, as well as solid acting from Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., and Chris Cooper. Cooper plays K.B.I. Agent Alvin Dewey with perhaps a bit too much intensity, given his relatively small amount of screen time, but the portrayal nonetheless comes off as heart-felt.

The cinematography by Adam Kimmel is suitably gray and moody, with many evocative views of the flat Kansas plains, but most of the screen time is spent with the camera focused on Hoffmann – all of it time well spent.

While I haven’t read the biography by Gerald Clarke on which it’s based, the script seems to hit enough salient details to evoke Capote’s frame of mind, without inundating the audience with more than would fit in a feature-length film. I suppose one of my only complaints about the film would be that at times the conversations take on a sheen of Hollywood, saying things for dramatic impact that perhaps might not have been said in real life. But then again, I never met Capote, so who knows for sure.

All in all, this was a deeply engrossing film, and one I would highly recommend, especially if you’re a fan of Truman Capote.

S.D. Gordon
Oct 20 2014
12:35 pm

The journalistic style of In Cold Blood was the 1st thing I noticed when I read it. A very engaging work, but lacked voice, which is appropriate for journalism. Same goes for The Executioners’ Song by N. Mailer.
As far as Capote vs. Burroughs (as writers) is concerned, I would have to come down on the side of Burroughs for reasons far too numerous and varied to list here.
I have a certain respect for T. Capote, but tend to think that he was maybe a bit over-rated. -Nothing very ground-breaking, or particularly original. -Refined but limited.
Burroughs’ work speaks for itself, and besides being varied in terms of themes, content, and approach, I would argue that Burroughs was more honest. There is also a clear tone of (theoretical) experimentality and indirectly subtle contextually philosophical under-pinnings (“the only thing not pre-recorded in a pre-recorded universe are the pre-recordings themselves.”), virtually absent in Capote.
It comes down to taste, I suppose, but if given the choice of one writer to study, hypothetically stranded on a desert island for the rest of my life, I’d pick Burroughs.
Burroughs is out of fashion these days, which for me, means that it’s again time for another re-evaluation/examination of his work. Only this time within the scope of (emancipatory) philosophy (theory) instead of his culturally over-determined public and private sexuality. Seriously, who cares? It’s (theoretically contingent sexual indicators) already been more than adequately covered.
Maybe this is obvious, but the more I read Zizek (and to a lesser extent, Ronell), the more I think that Burroughs has been curiously over-looked; I find more than just a slight overlap between Burroughs’ work and current philosophical/cultural theory.
Burroughs never made any directly philosophical claims that I’m aware of, but the structures are there in the work.
I’m way off point now, so I’ll stop here and look into Queer Theory before I say something I can’t defend.

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