Truman Capote and Harper Lee were children when they met. Twenty-five years later, Capote had taken New York's literary world by storm, while Lee struggled to put pen to paper and sweat out the story of her childhood in the same city.
They would reunite in the desolate plains of Kansas to create In Cold Blood. And they would start talk of an even greater mystery: What happened between them -- and who really wrote To Kill a Mockingbird? How did two innocents from a backwoods Southern town achieve such fame, and why did they stop speaking to one another?
Kim Powers has conjured a death-bed confession from Capote, in which he picks up the phone to Harper Lee one last time to tell her is being haunted -- a tale she doesn't believe, until she is forced to. What do the ghosts of the Clutters want, as they appear one by one to confess their secrets and their anger to the most unlikely mediums of Capote and Lee?
Capote in Kansas is an unforgettable "what might have been" -- a fantasia of ghosts seeking resolve and revenge, and memories
This entertaining biography hits the elusive sweet spot between scholarship and readability. British archeologist Tyldesley (Daughters of Isis) is charmingly transparent about the unreliability of her sources. She tells us that when the Roman poet Lucan describes Cleopatra's ineffable night of shame with Julius Caesar, he is writing the equivalent of modern tabloid journalism. In spite of the lack of eyewitness descriptions of Cleopatra, the question, for instance, of what she looked like becomes a fast-moving amusing discussion of statuary as royal propaganda, the modern perception of Cleopatra's nose as way too big and the difference between beauty and sexiness. Writing with an easy mastery of her subject, Tyldesley always seems to be able to lay her hands on the perfect lively detail, whether an excerpt from an obscure bureaucratic document or a description of a kind of giant robot that paraded through the streets of Alexandria pouring libations of milk from a gold bottle. Though she makes it clear we'll never know what Cleopatra was really like, Tyldesley provides a memorable journey through the rich and contradictory sources of our knowledge about her. 8 pages of illus., 3 maps. (Sept.) ""
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August 24, 2008
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