In the December issue of Vanity Fair, which hits shelves this week, readers can get a taste of a missing chapter from Truman Capote’s famously unfinished novel, “Answered Prayers.” In Vanity Fair’s table of contents, look for the piece by Capote titled “Yachts and Things.”
Capote was at work on “Answered Prayers” for almost 20 years. He signed the contract in 1966, which was postponed, renewed and recalculated for larger and larger advances. It is rumored that he was offered $1 million to finally complete his manuscript -- but he couldn’t meet the deadline. Parts of the manuscript that had appeared in Esquire magazine were gathered together after his death in 1984 and published, incomplete, as “Answered Prayers.”
“Yachts and Things” was known to be a chapter planned for the book; the six-page story that appears in Vanity Fair was found among Capote’s archives at the New York Public Library.
In a release, Vanity Fair described the story: "[T]he narrator is clearly Truman, and ‘Mrs. Williams’ is possibly The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham. The two are set to go on an idyllic three-week cruise in the Mediterranean aboard a friend’s chartered yacht, The Witchcraft, but due to a death in his family, their Italian host — most likely Gianni Agnelli — at the last minute is unable to join them.”
Capote, who was the subject of two recent biopics, enjoyed a level of fame far beyond the typical American novelist. He was a literary darling after the publication of his first novel, “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” which was hailed for its accomplished writing and the scandalously coquettish author photo on its back cover. Then he wrote several short stories including “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which was adapted as the wildly popular film. And his true-crime novel, “In Cold Blood,” was a landmark work of nonfiction; it solidified Capote’s position as a significant writer and his place in the cultural firmament.
In 1966, Capote and Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, threw the Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Five hundred close friends were sent the coveted invitations; it was memorialized in the book “Party of the Century.” Parties suited Capote well; above, he’s at Studio 54, at a birthday party Halston threw for Elizabeth Taylor. He’s dancing with Marion Javitz, wife of Sen. Jacob Javitz.
Hobnobbing with wealthy society ladies also suited Capote, and it’s what got him into trouble with “Answered Prayers.” When portions of the roman-a-clef about the lives of his rich intimates were published, it alienated him from some of his friends.
Sam Kashner, the contributing editor at Vanity Fair who found “Yachts and Things,” says that Joanne Carson -- who Capote was staying with when he died -- knew Capote had unpublished stories. “He had a writing room in my house — he spent a lot of time here because it was a safe place and nobody could get to him — and he had many, many pages of manuscript, and he started to read them,” she said. “They were very, very good. He read one chapter, but then someone called, and when I went back he just put them aside and said, ‘I’ll read them after dinner.’ But he never did — you know how that happens.”
The parties, the dinners, the drinking, drugs and witty conversation -- all of it made for a glittering social life, but it wasn’t much good for his writing.