Random Thoughts

Summer Crossing -- an essay

... why Capote did not want to publish.

by Ed Boyd

I put this article in 2007. The caption said it was a review, but it was an
essay speculating on why Capote decided not to publish his novel. Here it is
again with a tale of why Capote said it and other of his things should be set
out for trash.
                           

This is the novel just rediscovered in the effects left behind by Truman
Capote. An Afterword by Alan U. Schwartz, October 2005, tells of the
resurrection of Summer Crossing in late 2004. Schwartz, trustee of The Truman
Capote Literary Trust, has made many decisions regarding the publication of Capote’s works in various media throughout the world.

In the 1950’s Capote decided not to return to a basement apartment, he kept in
Brooklyn Heights. Capote apparently had instructed the building superintendent
to put all his remaining possessions on the street for garbage pickup. When
the house sitter realized what was to be done he decided to keep Capote’s
possessions. Now, fifty years later, this gentleman died and a relative
decided to sell this material to Sotheby’s. Schwartz was consulted as trustee of
The Truman Capote Literary Trust and had to decide on publication of Summer Crossing. With several readers and after much soul searching, Schwartz decided on publishing. Soul searching because if Capote had abandoned Summer Crossing what right did he have in publishing the book? With these reservations, Summer Crossings was published in 2006.

A good source to find out how Capote himself regarded Summer Crossing is the
630 pages of Gerald Clarke’s marvelous biography, Capote. Published in 1988
by Simon & Schuster it gives a wonderful, speckled life of Truman Capote.

Early, on p.79, Capote says, “More and more, Summer Crossing seemed to me
thin, clever, unfelt. Another language, a spiritual geography, was burgeoning
inside me, taking hold of my nightdream hours as well as my wakeful
daydreams.” Later, when we look at the story itself, we may want to keep these
words in mind. And these words, “ I have fine hopes for Summer Crossing, and
feel alive and justified in doing it, but it makes me nervous all the time,
which is probably a good sign, and I do not feel like talking about it, which
is another.’

Much later, Capote decides to abandon Summer Crossing. His editor, Linscott,
says it does not have Capote’s “…distinctive artistic voice.” Reluctantly,
Capote comes to the same conclusion. “I read it over maybe two or three times,
and one day I just decided: I don’t really like it. I think it’s well written
and it’s got a lot of style, but I really don’t like it. And so I tore it up.”

As it turned out, fifty years later, Summer Crossing  is a manuscript of four
notebooks written in ink and heavily corrected in Capote’s hand. Apparently,
Capote had trouble with destroying his own writing.  

Why Capote decided to scrap Summer Crossings is best left to Divine
Providence. Still, it challenges the imagination to wonder why this document
appears when it does. Capote says,“I tore it up”, but he did not. We are
tempted to believe that Capote knew that Summer Crossing would be unearthed
someday and published along with his other work. Somewhere, off in the
distance, you can almost feel his smile, mischievous as he was.The story is
about Grady McNeil who is about to see her parents off on a Summer Crossing.
When we read other Capote stories like “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” and the“Grass
Harp” there is kind of a flow, smoothness not present in Summer Crossing.
Maybe this has something to do with her disturbed relationship with her
mother, told at the beginng on page four. Grady says, “…she’d never, not even
as a very small girl, much liked her mother.” This sets the tone for the book
that hangs in the air throughout.

At seventeen, Grady is left alone in New York with a blue Buick convertible to
tool around in. It’s not long before she meets Clyde Manzer, a parking lot
attended. Even the name Manzer gives a sense of foreboding. Grady says, “He
was not the first lover she had known.” When she was sixteen she had an affair
with Steve Bolton, husband of Janet Bolton. Janet was pregnant at the time so
this made Grady available for Steve. Grady as a teenager has all ready had two
lovers. What is interesting is that no sexual details are given. To be sure,
this story was written in the relatively chaste ‘50’s. Still, you might expect
some skin or a groan or two. Capote was flamboyantly homosexual. Maybe the
absence of sexual details has something to do with Capote’s difficulty in
portraying a heterosexual female? This is probably not the reason, but it does
make you wonder.

Grady and Clyde use the New York apartment that belongs to her parents. Clyde
becomes more visible as his story unfolds. As we learn more about him you
can’t help wonder what Grady sees in him. But, after all, she is only a
teenager. Along the way, Grady has an epiphany: “Carefully she moved across
the room and raised her eyes to a mirror: nor was Grady the same. She was not
a child. It had been so ideal an excuse she somehow had persisted in a notion
that she was. For instance, she said to Peter it had not occurred to her to
whether or not she might marry Clyde, that the truth had been the truth, but
only because she’d thought of it as a problem for a grown-up…her own life was
sure had not started; though now seeing herself dark and pale in the mirror,
she knew it had been going on for a long while.”

Shortly after, Grady marries Clyde. Just before, “Snatching her hand, he
pulled her along with him…as they leaned together, panting, he put into her
hand a bunch of violets, and she knew, quite as though she’d seen it done,
that they were stolen.” This is mindful of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”. The
thrill of stealing is embedded in both stories. It makes you wonder why this
seems to seal her marriage.

They spend time with Mrs. Manzer but Clyde does not want to tell her that they
are married, just yet. It is not long before Grady, “…was not quite six weeks
pregnant.

This is enough to give a sense of these two characters and to imagine what
might happen. Why did Capote decide to abandon Summer crossing? This story
seems too close to the bone for Capote. We know of his self-destructive life
in his later years. He trashed all of his friends and drank himself to death.
Capote’s discomfort with this story is not too hard to understand. The ending
is very telling. “…Gump cried, ‘Damn it, you’ll kill us,’ but he could not
loosen her hands from the steering wheel: she said, ‘I know.”


March 3, 2017


Originally published August 03,2007..






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