Capote by Gerald Clarke

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Authors: Gerald Clarke
scattering off to college or into the armed forces. Truman, whose bad grades prevented him from receiving a diploma with the rest of the class of ‘42, did neither. After a trip south to see Arch, who had finally found his gold mine—marriage to a woman of means in Louisiana—at Nina’s insistence he began his senior year all over again at the Franklin School, a private school on the West Side. Catering mainly to students who could not get into better places, Franklin gave him a light schedule, allowed him to come and go as he pleased, and indulged him by looking the other way when he skipped classes, which he did frequently, without guilt or regret.
    He had never paid more than passing attention to school or grades, of course, but even if he had, how could he study when everything he wanted, all that he and Phoebe had talked about and dreamed about in their Greenwich exile, was at his doorstep? “In New York,” said Phoebe, who was in Manhattan herself, attending Barnard College, “Truman was happy and free for the first time in his life.” The little boy from Monroeville who had been terrified of sidewalks and tall buildings when he arrived ten years before had grown into a young man who had a romantic attachment to the city, “this island, floating in river water like a diamond iceberg,” as he was soon to write.
    He had an immense capacity for friendship, Phoebe had said, and he demonstrated it soon enough. He met a girl, Eleanor Marcus, who introduced him to her sister Carol. Carol, a “licensed screwball,” in Phoebe’s words, was enchanted by him and introduced him to her own best friends, Oona O’Neill and Gloria Vanderbilt. For the next several months, through the end of 1942 and well into 1943, they were a foursome: Carol, the blond madcap; Gloria, the most famous heiress of the era; Oona, the daughter of the country’s greatest playwright; and Truman, the amusing newcomer from the suburbs. Truman had lost Phoebe, but he had gained three substitutes, each unusual and each remarkably attractive in her own, quite distinctive way.
    Now he was at El Morocco or the Stork Club all the time. Sherman Billingsley, the Stork Club’s owner, was delighted to welcome three girls who were so often in the columns and offered them—and Truman too—free lunch. In the afternoons they would go to a favorite bar on East Fifty-third Street, where they would ask the piano player to play Cole Porter’s least popular songs. At night they might return to the Stork Club or El Morocco. “We thought we were being terrific,” said Carol, “and we thought that the Stork Club was a terrific place for us to be.” Truman finally felt at home, just where he wanted to be. New York was fun, exciting, and glamorous, and he now loved the very things that once had made him hate it—its crowds, its frenzied movement, its intensity. But the nightclubs and amusing people were only part of its appeal. Most of all, he had learned to appreciate the opportunity waiting for him on that glittering but dangerously slippery chunk of ice.
    Armed with an almost religious vision of his career as a writer—no martyr to the Cross had ever been more certain in his faith—he could almost touch his brilliant future as he walked down Fifth Avenue. It was all but within his grasp, that idealized future, casting its spell on him, leading him onward as surely as the promise of riches had once led Arch on. But Truman would not deceive himself with crazy schemes, as his father had done, or sit back and wait for fortune to smile. He would ruthlessly seize his glorious future the way a condor does its prey, and in a poem, “Sand for the Hour Glass,” that he wrote for the Franklin literary magazine, he boldly said so. Constructed out of metaphors of violence—he compared himself to that condor searching for its dinner—the poem is a young man’s manifesto, a declaration of war against a world not so much hostile as indifferent, which was, in

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