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Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote
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Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Perhaps no twentieth-century writer was so observant and graceful a chronicler of his times as Truman Capote. Portraits and Observations is the first volume devoted solely to all the essays ever published by this most beloved of writers. Included are such masterpieces of narrative nonfiction as “The Muses Are Heard” and the short nonfiction novel “Handcarved Coffins,” as w ...more
Paperback, 518 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Modern Library (first published 1995)
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Portraits and Observations, what a fitting title for this collection of poetic oddities and fluid cognizance. Capote's work is what you label belletrist, because be it fiction or nonfiction, the magnetism of his artful prose is the transfixing element. I was enthralled by “Master Misery,” and since then, I’ve bought Portraits and the nonfiction piece that helped transform journalism: In Cold Blood (which he discusses in this collection).

“I believe a story can be wrecked by a faulty rhythm,” Cap
Ignoring Capote's obsession with celebrity life for a moment, this book does a great job of artfully describing real events, real people, real places. Some of my favorites: Lola, about a bird that he adopts that thinks it's a dog, The Muses are Heard, about the cast of Porgy and Bess and their journeys into the Soviet Union, and Ghost in Sunlight, where he writes about the filming of In Cold Blood. Throughout the book he interviews murderers, ordinary people, and Marlon Brando. And yes, he is a ...more
a little bonkers, perhaps, but man could he write...
the guy's brilliant.
What a pleasure to find some new stories I haven't read! My favorite was about the bird Lola. If I was an English teacher, I would make every kid read it. This book also makes me wish there was a contemporary writer of pop culture that was even 1/2 as insightful and observant as he was. He clearly cared about his craft and I don't know of anyone today who could write a story like In Cold Blood or Porgy and Bess. Truly a joy to read!
Having visited Hotel Olaffson in Port-au-Prince in 2000, the Haiti chapter was exceptional travel writing. The Self Portrait chapter gave me some insight on how to write this type of work with students. These essays more than any other book illustrate Capote's strengths as an individual were as profound as his weaknesses were glaring.
Having never read any Capote before, I feel this book was the perfect introduction. I wanted some thematically-appropriate reading while on vacation in New Orleans, as well as something substantive yet easy to pick up and put down. Capote's vignettes of people and places were lyrical, acerbic, vulnerable, all too revealing of the foibles of their subjects (and their author, who would sometimes retell the same allegedly-real anecdote in different pieces with significant details changed). Reading ...more
Have reread some chapters numerous times. Not many books keep you coming back.
Amazing. He was a truly great writer.
This book was incredible. I'm too tired to do a full review of it, maybe I'll do one later.

But I can say that it was incredible to read his impressions of such famous people, and incredible to read his growth and change of style as a writer over the years. I loved the novellas. I found that towards the end, the conversation-themed essay/script things got tiresome, but they were enjoyable nonetheless.
Louis Profeta Profeta
My writing was inspired by Mr. Capote, poetry of mine has taught me to gather two things, details, details and metaphor give depth to writing and Truman is great at both. Even the way he goes on tangents interests me, adding some humor. He carries many thoughts in a paragraph and it gets my interest plus his travels are extensive. A perfect teacher and a kind man of taste.Breakfast at Tiffanys, what can one say?
Rich Biggs
Previously, I had only read one of Capote's Christmas memories. I enjoyed this very much. I thought he was a fine writer. ... From reading Wikipedia, I gather he sometimes let his story-telling slip into what was alleged to be non-fiction, so perhaps these should be categorized as non-fictional and semi-fictional!
I had not been familiar with his writing beyond what I had seen in movies and cultural folklore before I read this book - afterward, I realized he was a BRILLIANT social commentator! Stories are quite a snapshot of various decades throughout the 20th century.
As with any collection, this is a bit uneven, but the good pieces (especially "Handcarved Coffins" and "The Duke in His Domain") are really worth reading. He had such a wonderful eye for detail.
Over the last few years, Truman Capote has become one of my favorite authors. He is a writer I turn to, again and again, to learn about writing and, more importantly, about humanity.
David Traeger
This is a collection of essays that have appeared in other of Capote's books. I wish that he had written more instead of wasting all that talent on rich people. Worth re-reading.
Ashley Rangel
really good writer and I loved the section on Mae West but it was a lot of material to cover and I'm not sure what I'm looking for after reading Mindy Kaling
Debra Harrison
This book is full of examples of the wonderful ways Capote had of creating art with words. His genius really shines here.
Capote lover...a dark side of Capote that i have newver seen before...worth taking the time to get through it...
I love Capote but he makes me sad, so I'm going to wait a while before I try to finish this book.
Beautifully written of course. Self-absorbed, of course. Well worth reading.
TC has a gift for putting simple observation into delightful prose.
Really good. Read it a few times since I've gotten it. Excellent.
Incredible writing....the best book I have read in many years.
An astute judge of contemporary culture. Fantastic writing.
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Truman Capote was an American writer whose non-fiction, stories, novels and plays are recognised literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and In Cold Blood (1965), which he labeled a "non-fiction novel." At least 20 films and TV dramas have been produced from Capote novels, stories and screenplays.

He was born as Truman Streckfus Persons to a salesman Archulus Persons
More about Truman Capote...
In Cold Blood Breakfast at Tiffany's Other Voices, Other Rooms A Christmas Memory Music for Chameleons

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“she wanted to know what American writers I liked. "Hawthorne, Henry James, Emily Dickinson…" "No, living." Ah, well, hmm, let's see: how difficult, the rival factor being what it is, for a contemporary author, or would-be author, to confess admiration for another. At last I said, "Not Hemingway—a really dishonest man, the closet-everything. Not Thomas Wolfe—all that purple upchuck; of course, he isn't living. Faulkner, sometimes: Light in August. Fitzgerald, sometimes: Diamond as Big as the Ritz, Tender Is the Night. I really like Willa Cather. Have you read My Mortal Enemy?" With no particular expression, she said, "Actually, I wrote it.” 3 likes
“I prefer to underwrite. Simple, clear as a country creek.” 3 likes
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