A landmark collection that brings together Truman Capote's life's work in the form he called his "great love," The Complete Stories confirms Capote's status as a master of the the short story. This first-ever compendium features a never-before-published 1950 story, "The Bargain," as well as an introduction by Reynolds Price. Ranging from the gothic South to the chic East Coast, from rural children to aging urban sophisticates, all the unforgettable places and people of Capote's oeuvre are here, in stories as elegant as they are heartfelt, as haunting as they are compassionate. Reading them reminds us of the miraculous gifts of a beloved American original.
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September 13, 2005
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Excerpt from The Complete Stories of Truman Capote by Truman Capote
Capote: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF TRUMAN CAPOTE
The Walls Are Cold
". . . so Grant just said to them come on along to a wonderful party, and, well it was as easy as that. Really, I think it was just genius to pick them up, God only knows they might resurrect us from the grave." The girl who was talking tapped her cigarette ash on the Persian throw rug and looked apologetically at her hostess.
The hostess straightened her trim, black dress and pursed her lips nervously. She was very young and small and perfect. Her face was pale and framed with sleek black hair, and her lipstick was a trifle too dark. It was after two and she was tired and wished they would all go, but it was no small task to rid yourself of some thirty people, particularly when the majority were full of her father's scotch. The elevator man had been up twice to complain about the noise; so she gave him a highball, which is all he is after anyway. And now the sailors . . . oh, the hell with it.
"It's all right, Mildred, really. What are a few sailors more or less? God, I hope they don't break anything. Would you go back in the kitchen and see about ice, please? I'll see what I can do with your new-found friends."
"Really, darling, I don't think it's at all necessary. From what I understand, they acclimate themselves very easily."
The hostess went toward her sudden guests. They were knotted together in one corner of the drawing-room, just staring and not looking very much at home.
The best looking of the sextet turned his cap nervously and said, "We didn't know it was any kind of party like this, Miss. I mean, you don't want us, do you?"
"Of course you're welcome. What on earth would you be doing here if I didn't want you?"
The sailor was embarrassed.
"That girl, that Mildred and her friend just picked us up in some bar or other and we didn't have any idea we was comin' to no house like this."
"How ridiculous, how utterly ridiculous," the hostess said. "You are from the South, aren't you?"
He tucked his cap under his arm and looked more at ease. "I'm from Mississippi. Don't suppose you've ever been there, have you, Miss?"
She looked away toward the window and ran her tongue across her lips. She was tired of this, terribly tired of it. "Oh, yes," she lied. "A beautiful state."
He grinned. "You must be mixed up with some other place, Miss. There sure's not a lot to catch the eye in Mississippi, 'cept maybe around Natchez way."
"Of course, Natchez. I went to school with a girl from Natchez. Elizabeth Kimberly, do you know her?"
"No, can't say as I do."
Suddenly she realized that she and the sailor were alone; all of his mates had wandered over to the piano where Les was playing Porter. Mildred was right about the acclimation.
"Come on," she said, "I'll fix you a drink. They can shift for themselves. My name's Louise, so please don't call me Miss."
"My sister's name's Louise, I'm Jake."
"Really, isn't that charming? I mean the coincidence." She smoothed her hair and smiled with her too dark lips.
They went into the den and she knew the sailor was watching the way her dress swung around her hips. She stooped through the door behind the bar.
"Well," she said, "what will it be? I forgot, we have scotch and rye and rum; how about a nice rum and coke?"
"If you say so," he grinned, sliding his hand along the mirrored bar's surface, "you know, I never saw a place like this before. It's something right out of a movie."
She whirled ice swiftly around in a glass with a swizzle stick. "I'll take you on a forty-cent tour if you like. It's quite large, for an apartment, that is. We have a country house that's much, much bigger."
That didn't sound right. It was too supercilious. She turned and put the bottle of rum back in its niche. She could see in the mirror that he was staring at her, perhaps through her.
"How old are you?" he asked.
She had to think for a minute, really think. She lied so constantly about her age she sometimes forgot the truth herself. What difference did it make whether he knew her real age or not? So she told him.
"And never been kissed . . . ?"
She laughed, not at the clich� but her answer.
"Raped, you mean."
She was facing him and saw that he was shocked and then amused and then something else.
"Oh, for God's sake, don't look at me that way, I'm not a bad girl." He blushed and she climbed back through the door and took his hand. "Come on, I'll show you around."
She led him down a long corridor intermittently lined with mirrors, and showed him room after room. He admired the soft, pastel rugs and the smooth blend of modernistic with period furniture.
"This is my room," she said, holding the door open for him, "you mustn't mind the mess, it isn't all mine, most of the girls have been fixing in here."
There was nothing for him to mind, the room was in perfect order. The bed, the tables, the lamp were all white but the walls and the rug were a dark, cold green.