Old News: Remembering Truman Capote

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Published August 23, 2011

In Old News, we highlight a piece from Interview‘s past that resonates with the present.

Celebrated bon vivant Truman Capote first appeared in Interview in April 1976. In that initial interview, the writer discussed, among other topics, his forthcoming novel Answered Prayers (which he labeled “hi-larious!”) and his opinion of Gore Vidal (“Oh, I couldn’t care less! Whatever Gore says about me, I think the same about him”). Three years later, Capote became a fixture in the magazine. In 1979, he began writing a column called “Conversations with Capote,” which he used as the basis for his 1980 anthology Music for Chameleons. Andy Warhol painted a portrait of Capote in exchange for the columns.

In April 1980, Interview ran a letter written by Capote in which the author announced that his contributions to the magazine would be “irregular for awhile” because he was “at long last finishing Answered Prayers.” As fate would have it, this letter would be the last piece Capote ever wrote for Interview; later that year, he was hospitalized after a hallucinatory seizure, which triggered a downward spiral. Capote died of liver cancer on August 25, 1984, without ever completing Answered Prayers. We remember him this week by reprinting his last letter to Interview readers below.

Dear Friends,

I hope you enjoyed my December contribution (“Handcarved Coffins:), and will be pleased to hear that it was bought by the movies for a lot of money. Otherwise, all has been a disaster. I went to Switzerland and was run over by a drunken skier weighing more than 250 pounds. It’s a wonder that I escaped with only a sprained wrist, sprained back, and a head concussion. So off I flew to California to recuperate, only to arrive during the infamous storms and floods of February. The house of my hostess was in danger of sliding off a cliff. Several rooms wer filled with mud. Still, the house survived—and so did I, more or less.

Actually, what I wanted to say is that my appearances in Interview will be irregular for a while because I am at long last finishing “Answered Prayers.” However, I am preparing a surprise for the September issue: a very long piece, very: a sort of homemade bomb. Meanwhile, all the best,

T.C.

P.S. In September I am publishing a book that contains many of my Interview pieces. The book is called “Music for Chameleons.”

P.P.S. One thing more. Do any of you remember “A Day’s Work”?—It was about Mary Sanchez, my cleaning lady, and the day I spent accompanying her while she cleaned various apartments. Anyway, that too is going to be a movie. But we are having a hard time finding the right person to play Mary. Ethel Waters, when she was fifty, would have been very good. It must be a very fine black actress (50 to 60) who has real range, and a sensitive understanding of the comic, the absurd. If any of you can suggest a suitable actress, please write me. I would be very grateful.