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NewCityNet Other Voices

By Ray Pride

JANUARY 20, 1998: 

George Plimpton
(Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 500 pages, $35)

George Plimpton's orotund and amused speaking voice is probably one of the most distinguishable in the arts, but in his day, surely Truman Capote's high, piping merriment was more recognizable. They're two connoisseurs of another kind of voice as well: Capote, who transformed his Southern, homosexual, prevaricating tendencies into matchless, refined prose; Plimpton, for years editor and patron of the Paris Review, creating an oral history of writers at work in strenuously edited interviews. Plimpton has also collaborated on such composite oral histories as "Edie: An American Biography," a portrait of Warhol's ill-fated superstar Edie Sedgwick. "Truman Capote" doesn't offer a complete overview of Capote's career -- you'd have to look at Gerald Clarke's "Capote" for that -- but it fascinates for amassing the speaking style of those who knew Capote at all stages of his life: his roots in little Monroeville, Alabama, where he appeared as a full-blown singularity; the gay demimonde of Manhattan in the 1940s and 1950s; the two cardinal Capote events of 1966, his high society black-and-white ball and the publication of his "nonfiction novel," "In Cold Blood"; and his slow and unpleasant decline. The voices of Capote's friends and colleagues are often as amusing for their tone and manner of speaking as for what they offer up about the diminutive stylist. (Ray Pride)

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