rusq: Vol. 50 Issue 2: p. 191
Sources: Truman Capote Encyclopedia
Nancy Frazier

Nancy Frazier, Instructional Services Librarian, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

For the Capote connoisseur, this encyclopedia offers a treasure trove of details about Truman Capote’s life and works. Author Robert Gale aims to enhance readers’ enjoyment of Capote, whom he describes as a “protean puzzle” (1). Gale credits biographers Robert Stanton, Gerald Clarke, Deborah Davis, and George Plimpton for their insights.

There are numerous biographical and critical sources about Capote and his works, including many online reference tools (e.g., Literature Criticism Online, Literature Online LION, Biography Resource Center, as well as other encyclopedias). This 279-page encyclopedia should be especially savored by Capote devotees—those who want to learn more about the man, his immense talent, his innate ability to observe and dissect the human condition, his larger-than-life personality and circle of famous friends, and his impressive body of work. It’s an alphabetically arranged voyeuristic romp of sorts, where readers may feel as if they’re privy to juicy tidbits of gossip. The encyclopedia includes entries for Capote’s characters, even the most obscure, as well as his friends and family members, particularly those who influenced his life and work. Robert Gale’s book provides summaries of all of Truman Capote’s works, with chapter-by-chapter synopses of his novels, as well as descriptions of his short stories and nonfiction prose. Short story and essay entries list characters and identify books containing reprints of the works.

The Capote aficionado will experience hours of enjoyment by thumbing through the Truman Capote Encyclopedia. Take the entry, “Truman Capote by Truman Capote,” for example—“When God presents you with a gift, it is accompanied by a whip for flagellating yourself” (242). Those less familiar with Capote and his works are sure to learn more about the enigmatic writer. Readers will find a mix of lengthy and brief entries, as well as a chronology and bibliographic citations. Though the volume does not include photographs, Gale advises that “readers who miss photographs … may find an amplitude in other but not better books devoted to Capote, especially those by Gerald Clarke, Deborah Davis, and George Plimpton, and in Richard Avedon’s Observations” (2).

This volume offers a wealth of information about Capote and his work, of interest to both casual readers and Capote scholars. If purchasing this volume, shelve it in a circulating collection for greatest use and enjoyment.

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