Dear Summer Crossing by Truman Capote:
Lately it seems as though I’ve acquired a knack for picking up the most recent book an author has written or published without ever having read any of their other work. Although you were the first novel ever written by Truman Capote, you weren’t published until over fifty years later in 2005, decades after Capote’s death. Merely by chance–your availability in audiobook form on the Libby app as I was browsing titles–you became the first Capote novel I’ve ever read.
Despite your short length, I’ve been left thinking about you for quite some time since I finished reading you. I think this is because you morphed into something unexpected as I was reading. You seemed to have three layers, like some sort of candy that’s sweet on the outside and gradually gets more sour as the shell melts away. In the first layer you were silly, light-hearted, and sweet, almost akin to a rom-com. Moments of tension and discomfort began to seep in as the story progressed, creating your bittersweet second layer. And then there was the ending–one of the most startling, unexpected endings I have ever read.
I’ve thought a lot about this ending since I finished reading you (don’t worry, no spoilers!). It seemed so out of line with the rest of the novel, until I really thought about the way your tone had been spiraling into more and more tension as the story went on. Initially I thought the ending was a detriment to the story, that there should have been more clues pointing in that direction or at least some indication of the tragedy that was to come. But when I thought about it more, I realized that maybe that suddenness is precisely the point of this ending. Tragedy isn’t often clearly signaled in real life. No matter how much we try to plan for the future and understand the intentions and mindsets of those around us, there will always be things that take us off guard.
This then got me thinking about the fact that you were published posthumously. I generally have mixed feelings about posthumous publication: while it’s amazing to have more material to read from certain authors, I think it’s important to think about whether or not they wanted that work to be published in the first place. You are said to be the first novel that Capote ever wrote, and the rather controversial circumstances surrounding your publication lingered in the back of my mind the entire time I was reading. This isn’t something you can help, of course–you had no say in the matter.
Do I have some gripes with you? Yes. The so-called “male gaze” is overwhelming here when women are described, and at one point you romanticize a young girl restricting her food intake to the point of extreme thinness (likely indicative of an eating disorder). But did I enjoy reading you overall? For the most part, yes. I don’t think you’re a book that I would necessarily reread in the future, but I’m glad I read you now. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by Truman Capote.