Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers

Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers

I just finished my book on Truman Capote, the final edits.  It is out in April, 2011, Oxford University Press.  It focuses on Answered Prayers, Capote’s last, unfinished novel in which he sautees the social elites in whose orbit he so blithely drifted.  What I try to do is explore the deeper, hidden motives fueling the work.  Why did Capote produce a book that ultimately destroyed him?  He was instantly blacklisted; people he loved never spoke to him again; he was labeled a social pariah.

I rely a lot, in my analysis, on attachment research, especially findings concerning adult attachment-related strategies, studies by Phillip Shaver and Mario Mikulincer. It’s powerful, fascinating, scientifically-validated stuff.  Shaver & Mikulincer outline two basic insecure styles.  The first is hyperactivating.  The attachment system is on red alert.  Threats to responsiveness and availability are unconsciously intensified.  Such people evolve strategies to deal with fear. They are needy, anxious; they overreact; they up-regulate emotion.  They cling.  In short, they force people to react and take notice.  Then there are deactivators. They down-regulate threat, essentially pretending it does not exist.  They are expert avoiders.  They pretend not to feel at all, although, according to ingenious research, they do respond physiologically.  They exist in a kind of heated-up denial.

Usually these two types are antithetical.  But in Capote they co-existed.  He went back and forth, depending on external–or internal–circumstance.  He feared the filthy rich female “swans” he wrote about in Answered Prayers, worried they might abandon him–abandonment was the story of his childhood–but when he wrote the book, he pretended not to care.  He lurched into deactivation.  He was bullet-proof, he said.  He had a “magic pill” of denial.  Or did he?

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