Finally saw Capote on the big screen yesterday. I was dazzled by the performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman (the title role, and he deserves his Oscar nomination), and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird (ditto).
Whoever did the sound on Capote should also get a nomination. Just to hear the creaking boards on those Kansas hardwood floors was worth the price of admission.
The movie reminded me of a pep talk a group of us aspiring writers once got from Laurence Naumoff, a literary novelist whose latest is A Southern Tradedy in Crimson and Yellow, about the human cost of a tragic chicken processing plant fire in Hamlet, North Carolina a decade and a half ago. Naumoff read us a harrowing section of the novel describing the experiences of World War II pilots who dropped bombs on Dresden, Germany, and who could see the faces of the people they killed limned in the flames that boiled up.
Naumoff went on to say that the writer must have courage to go deep into his or her story, to experience the pain of the characters, to live the story. The best-told stories are always the ones where the author mediates the pain to readers in as authentic a way possible. Being willing to experience that pain and see it through to the end takes considerable courage, he told us.
Capote gave us an example of an author who went into the pain of his story to such an extent that the resulting book was a masterpiece, but the experience seemed to shatter him. In Cold Blood was Capote's last book. It was published in 1965 and he died in 1984.
For me it was a sobering look into the dangers-- funny to say it, but yes, dangers-- of being a writer. And it helped me to understand even better than before why it's much easier for some of us to write cozy mysteries or dispassionate scholarship, instead of what is the closest to the bone.
All that, and rejections too. What a life!