Following Capote

In the run-up to the Oscars — for which the chilling Capote received five nominations — a 1967 adaptation of In Cold Blood has returned to theaters.

The film has also revived interest in the work and lives of both Truman Capote and Harper Lee, his childhood friend. And it has breathed life anew into the speculation that Capote, not Lee, wrote To Kill a Mockingbird (voted “the book adults should read before they die” by British librarians this week). A recently-discovered letter from Capote to his aunt — in which the author writes, “Yes, it is true that Nelle Lee is publishing a book…. I did not see Nelle last winter, but the previous year, she showed me as much of the book as she’d written, and I liked it very much. She has real talent” — is unlikely to convince the conspiracy theorists. (For more on the letter, go here.)

In other news, Nextbook unearths a March 1968 interview with Playboy in which Capote alleged that a “Jewish literary mafia based more on a state of mind than on race” had “systematically frozen [other writers, including Vance Bourjaily,] out of the literary scene.” Ben Birnbaum considers Capote’s previously unpublished first novel in light of these statements and concludes that the In Cold Blood author was not an anti-Semite so much as a writer who “hated a world in which he was a good writer and others were very good or even great writers.”


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