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New Piece Added to Puzzle of Truman Capote’s ‘Answered Prayers’
A small piece of Truman Capote's famously unfinished novel "Answered Prayers" has come to light. The six-page story, "Yachts and Things," found among Capote's papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, is published in the December issue of Vanity Fair, out now in New York and nationally next week. The story will be available online in mid-November.
Issued three years after Capote's death, "Answered Prayers" was composed of three excerpts that had been separately published in Esquire in 1975 and 1976. Full of the thinly veiled (and unveiled) rich and famous, including Peggy Guggenheim, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gloria Vanderbilt, the book lost Capote many friends. Before his death at 59 in 1984, he spoke of several other fragments that have never been found or published.
In Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner writes that, "In ['Yachts and Things'], the narrator is clearly Truman, and 'Mrs. Williams' is possibly The Washington Post's publisher Katharine Graham." Gerald Clarke, the author of "Capote: A Biography," told the magazine that the story was "vintage Truman. 'A new moon, skinny as a slice of lemon rind' – you can't beat that. The title, 'Yachts and Things,' is indeed the title of one of the chapters he planned for 'Answered Prayers.' But that chapter would have been much longer than six pages, and it would have moved the narrative in a way that this piece, which is entirely self-contained, does not."
When the book was published in 1987, Tina Brown (then the editor of Vanity Fair) wrote in The Times: "The trouble with 'Answered Prayers' is that Capote at this stage was not amenable to the demands of nonfiction. He was out of control in his life and in his art. The nonfiction constraints of libel, taste and feeling were just what he needed at a time when his internal editor seems to have collapsed. Such constraints might have forced him to report with the fine calibrations of 'The Muses Are Heard' and 'In Cold Blood' instead of indulging himself in the worst solution of all, a rubbishy roman à clef."