Bryan Ball's Reviews > Other Voices, Other Rooms

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
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's review
Sep 29, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: lgbtq, favorites, 1940s

Every time I read Truman I wonder why I haven't read more of him. And I wonder why it is that the world has chosen to remember him the way they do. So much more than the television personality he became later in life, so much more than the author behind the book the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is based on and-- I say this, without having read the work-- so much more than the writer of "In Cold Blood."

"Other Voices, Other Rooms" is, on it's own as a narrative, a milestone of a novel. Breaking ground for gay subject matter alone, when considered as a novel written by a young Truman Capote-- when he was twenty-three, no less-- the feat is even greater. There are so many ways to read this novel-- as an auto-biography of its author, a revolutionary milestone in documenting through literature the gay experience, the definition of a modern Southern Gothic-- or nothing so simple.

And the prose through which Capote accomplishes this is gorgeous. Lush, golden, sparkling hot summer breeze-- Truman's writing from start to finish here is the definition of what a brilliant talent can do. Put you in the shoes, the day of a seemingly orphaned boy, who has lost his mother and is traveling to meet his biological father. A style all his own, each word, and each sentence they compose, is a beautifully constructed piece of art that appears effortless, and effortlessly takes you to the middle of the twentieth century, to the deep south, to the expanse of Skully's Landing, to the world of young Joel Knox.

In a setting so awash with vibrancy, the characters truly manage to make the novel, while being of life rather than brighter than the world they inhabit. I won't forget Joel, his cousin Randolph or the young girl he befriends, Idabel (based, famously, on Capote's childhood friend and fellow talent Harper Lee.) It feels a rarity, that each character and her or his own, individual, story stand out so in the memory-- and also (but not because of) the relationships all of these characters have, they stand out, in their same, own way.

Here, Truman has written a classic coming of age story that only he could. Whether the child Joel's coming of age is related to some personal acceptance of his homosexuality or not, there is a proudly, openly explored view of the gay experience, through Joel's journey, and, especially, through Randolph. After finishing the novel-- and I warn any reader that I am about to discuss the novel's ending-- but before reading any criticism, I wondered-- what if. What if Joel's decision at the end, his choice to stay, is to directly mean he chose Randolph? And, if so, the acceptance of his own homosexuality? Or- what if, by staying, Joel does so and becomes romantically involved with (the much older) Randolph? Or nothing so simple? Perhaps Joel is accepting that his fate will be there, with Randolph at the Landing-- but alone? To become whatever man it is he is, or is meant to become? I don't believe I've decided, other than no such definite decision is possible.

In a novel with so many passages of beautiful writing, it was hard to decide on one to include. However, I have decided on the words to follow, which come late in the novel, from Randolph.

"Afterwards, and though at first I was careful not to show the quality of my feelings, Dolores understood intuitively what had happened: 'Strange how long it takes us to discover ourselves; I've know since first I saw you,' she said... The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell."

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Quotes Bryan Liked

Truman Capote
“Before birth; yes, what time was it then? A time like now, and when they were dead, it would be still like now: these trees, that sky, this earth, those acorn seeds, sun and wind, all the same, while they, with dust-turned hearts, change only.”
Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Truman Capote
“Are the dead as lonesome as the living?”
Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Reading Progress

September 29, 2009 – Shelved
February 14, 2012 – Started Reading
February 26, 2012 –
page 55
March 20, 2012 –
page 100
May 14, 2012 – Finished Reading
May 16, 2012 – Shelved as: lgbtq
May 16, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites
May 24, 2012 – Shelved as: 1940s

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Bryan Ball Why have I never read this before? All I want to do is go home/somewhere quiet and read this.

Lbball27 I love Truman too, can't wait to read this one, thank you for your insightful review although I didn't finish it, for spoiler reasons.

message 3: by Julie (new)

Julie Christiano Wow. Your prose and analysis make my mind grab onto each word and my heart stop with appreciation for your intellect and talent.

Bryan Ball Thank you both much for the very kind words- I am glad my ramblings are appreciated! ;-)

Lbball27 I could never forget this precious story. read your review again and marveled all over again the depth of your understanding.

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