17 December 2010

Weekend Reading List

It snowed.
So I took of my boots, and put my Marc Jacobs cashmere socks ('Made in China' it says) back on, quite happy to spend the day in bed reading.
Maybe I'll spend the rest of the weekend in bed. Seoul isn't a pretty place and the snow doesn't make this city any prettier. To mark Christmas, I'm reading Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, a slim, stylish work that had originally appeared in Mademoiselle in December, 1956. Don't you miss the days when magazines published fiction? I'd pack it in my suitcase for my trip to Seoul, just because it's so slim.
It's typical of Capote's earlier, 'innocent' works. It's almost autobiographical: Capote lived with relatives in the South as a child, and during this time his older female cousin, Sook Faulk, was his closest friend. The nostalgic story has prompted critics to dismiss the story as "saccharine" prose at its most purple, but I find that it has its undertow of darkness. There's a lot of loneliness and all sorts of craziness.
This book makes me want to read his equally slim and much more stylish Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel (1987). It's also much more adult and controversial. In Capote's own words, the three chapters that comprise this 'novel' are also autobiographical:
"For four years, roughly from 1968 through 1972, I spent most of my time reading and selecting, rewriting and indexing my own letters, other people's letters, my diaries and journals (which contain detailed accounts of hundreds of scenes and conversations) for the years 1943 through 1965. In 1972 I began work on Answered Prayers by writing the last chapter [presumably Father Flanagan's All-Night Nigger Queen Kosher Cafe] first (it's always good to know where one is going). Then I wrote the first chapter, Unspoiled Monsters. Then the fifth, A Severe Insult to the Brain. Then the seventh, La Cote Basque. I went on in this manner, writing different chapters out of sequence. I was able to do this only because the plot—or rather plots—was true, and all the characters were real... I hadn't invented anything..."
I can only hope that the missing chapters turn up one day, like those Picassos in a garage.


  1. Stay warm, Uncle G! Blizzard in London too - I'm gazing at 6 inches of snow outside, while trying to write. We're hosting an open studio today: one landscape sold to the first (and thus far only) visitor, who was moved to unexpected tears by it.

  2. Dear Uncle CF: Errr... You seem to be in the art business now? When did that happen?

  3. No lah, still writing the endless thesis. It was my partner's open studio; I served the pear flan and stirred the nonya curry.