Understanding Truman Capote

Understanding Truman Capote

Understanding Truman Capote

Understanding Truman Capote

Synopsis

Truman Capote--along with his most famous works In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's--continues to have a powerful hold over the American popular imagination. His glamorous lifestyle, which included hobnobbing with the rich and famous and frequenting the most elite nightclubs in Manhattan, makes him the subject of ongoing interest for public and academic audiences alike. In Understanding Truman Capote, Thomas Fahy provides a new direction for Capote studies that offers a way to reconsider the author's work.

By reading Capote's work in its historical context, Fahy reveals the politics shaping his writing and refutes any notion of Capote as disconnected from the political. Instead this study positions him as a writer deeply engaged with the social anxieties of the 1940s and 1950s. Understanding Truman Capote also applies a highly interdisciplinary framework to the author's writing that includes discussions of McCarthyism, the Lavender Scare, automobile culture, juvenile delinquency, suburbia, Beat culture, the early civil rights movement, female sexuality as embodied by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, and atomic age anxieties. This new approach to Capote studies will be of interest in the fields of literature, history, film, suburban studies, sociology, gender/sexuality studies, African American literary studies, and American and cultural studies.

Capote's writing captures the isolation, marginalization, and persecution of those who deviated from or failed to achieve white middle-class ideals and highlights the artificiality of mainstream idealizations about American culture. His work reveals the deleterious consequences of nostalgia, the insidious impact of suppression, the dangers of Cold War propaganda, and the importance of equal rights. Ultimately Capote's writing reflects a critical engagement with American culture that challenges us to rethink our understanding of the 1940s and 1950s.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word ‘understanding’ in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analyses in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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