Reprocessing Reality: Truman Capote and the Making of a Nonfiction Artist Restricted; Files Only

Falvey, Sophia (Summer 2021)

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Reprocessing Reality traces Truman Capote’s development as a nonfiction artist from his celebrated literary debut in the mid-1940s to his decision in 1959 to pursue the story that would eventually become In Cold Blood, his bestselling “nonfiction novel.” Though In Cold Blood endures today as Capote’s most notable work of nonfiction—because of its dramatic subject matter, its ambitious scope, and the outsized attention it earned him—throughout his life Capote regularly wrote and published travel sketches, articles, and criticism in popular magazines such as Harper’s BazaarVogue, and the New Yorker. Many of these works were overlooked or sidelined during Capote’s life, and their status has only marginally improved in the years since his death in 1984. Turning to four of Capote’s early works of nonfiction, this dissertation tells the story of how, through the first two decades of his career, Capote honed his craft in literary nonfiction and cultivated a critical perspective on some of the pressing questions of his time, including the promises and consequences of nostalgia in the face of uncertainty and the obstacles that tourism and consumerism pose to understanding other places and people. At the same time that these early works offer new lenses through which we might understand Capote’s development as a nonfiction artist, they also open a window on the postwar arts and culture scene in its emergence, taking readers everywhere from the plucky and subversive world of teen magazines to the musicals and plays offered up and down Broadway in 1947, and from a Caribbean country in its much-publicized “golden age” of tourism to a secretive enclave of culture-obsessed Moscow twenty-somethings hiding in plain sight of an oppressive regime out to suppress it. In reading Capote’s early works of nonfiction in their original context of publication—both in his own life and in the postwar cultural landscape in which they emerged—Reprocessing Reality offers a broader understanding of how, through his innovative essays, sketches, and criticism in American magazines in the years leading up to In Cold Blood, Capote asserted himself as one of the foremost nonfiction artists of his time.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Reprocessing Reality 1

Chapter One: Bygone Brooklyn 34

Chapter Two: Broadway’s Old-Fashioned New Fashion 62

Chapter Three: Dispatch from Haiti 98

Chapter Four: Making it in Moscow 132

Coda: Blowing Smoke 160

Bibliography 169

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