Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story
by Kim Powers
Carroll & Graf. 304 pages, $25.
FOR A TIME, Truman Capote was fading from our collective memory. When discussed at all, he was quickly and safely caricatured into a long scarf and a spoiled child’s voice, much in the way that Elvis became little more than his peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. True originals are manifestly threatening because they confound easy categorization and cannot be miniaturized to fit the needs of our media culture, itself sustained by that unsettling combination of adoration and jealousy. Occasionally, even genuine fans unwittingly contribute to their hero’s obliteration by flattening him with sentimentality and stereotype. Unfortunately, just such a disservice has been rendered to Truman Capote and his life-long friend, Harper Lee, by Kim Powers in his recent book Capote in Kansas, a fictionalized account of their relationship, including the time they spent together in Kansas investigating the Clutter murders, the subject of Capote’s most famous book, In Cold Blood.