Summer Crossing. Truman Capote, 2005

Summer Crossing: a romantic process of writing 

The romantic writing process of Summer Crossing makes it an intimate and adventurous journey across the literary world of Truman Capote (New Orleans 1924 – Bel Air 1984). The book is in fact his first novel and he works on it for more than a decade since 1943. 

Notwithstanding all this effort he refuses to publish it, stating at one stage to have burnt it. When he dies in 1984 many scholars start to look for the text in vain.  It is only in 2004 that the book is accidentally found in his old house in Brooklyn: written on four notebooks, it is about the story of Grady Mcneil. Right after its finding, the book is published.

Literary close ups 

As in his major works – Other voices, other rooms (1948), Breakfast at Tiffany (1958), In cold blood (1966) – Summer Crossing style is bold and poetic. It has a narrative rhythm able to picture with mastery and precision his characters’ inner souls. He describes them almost as using a dolly zoom that can move close while being at a distance so that suddenly and unexpectedly one is overwhelmed by the clear revelation of their thoughts and emotions. 

In this way we get to know Grady Mcneil. A young New Yorker, wealthy and spoiled, with impeccable WASP credentials and part of New York jet set which Capote will never stop picturing in all its appeal and flaws. In this sense his literary research recalls in part that of F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) in particular. They both are used to exploring worldliness describing it through a narrative dynamic that makes its vanity evident without pointing it out but just by telling the story with a profound sensibility.

Grady and Clyde, meeting in Broadway 

Grady is stubborn, impetuous  and fussy and in part reminds the famous Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany (1958). She is used by Capote to describe the search for balance to realise by the means of independence desire’s satisfaction. Grady builds an image of herself arrogant and unconventional that can free her from the expectations of others. Yet, she is the first unable to part from what is expect from her. Clyde Manzer, a young Jewish war veteran is the way through which she aims at undertaking this path of emancipation from her worldly image.

Clyde works as attendant at a parking garage in Broadway. “Broadway is a road; but also a district, an atmosphere”. Known also as The Canyon of Hero: one of the few streets that runs sinuously through Manhattan among its famous square blocks, reminding of the strange inconsistency of desires and dreams making their way across logical reasoning.    

Their love revels progressively in this way deep and overwhelming, dragging them down, toward a strange direction. Strange because, once there, they will hardly recognise one another, yet they need to. In the parking garage where they first meet they fall in love not considering the implications their lives bond them to. But those implication show more and more clearly, proportionally to the incapacity of the two lovers to accepting them. The emotional density of Clyde family seems like suffocating Grady’s individualism. Her inability to show her tenderness and need for belonging to someone makes him to flaunt more and more intensively his audacity and detachment.

Reading Summer Crossing

This story is about love in diversity, of the never-ending attraction of opposite forces: wealth and  modesty, intellectualism and pragmatism, arrogance and tenderness, attachment and independence. It is about the way in which these extremes can meet, at times unite in the intimacy of a couple but often break in millions of sharp fragments as they get in contact with the refracting prism of external world.

The writing of this story accompanies Truman Capote along all his life gathering his multifaceted evolutions and numerous attempts to give uniformity to that prism. Reading this book is a valuable experience, not only in literary terms but also because it is tells indirectly a lot about him, his life lived against the flow, his genius, his diversity. An artist who was able to see beyond the borders that separate centres and the peripheries of things and people imagining pioneering visions to identify their bonds and connections.