Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

In the lead up to the release of yet more Popular Penguins, I decided to make a small attempt to decrease the number of unread PP in my pile. Wanting a quick read before sinking into something meatier for the weekend, I chose Summer Crossing which could be described as more of a novella at 120-odd pages.

Summer Crossing was found long after Truman Capote’s death and it was up to his lawyer amongst others to decide whether it should be published. It appeared that Capote had edited the manuscript several times and only minor changes have been made by others to the novel.

In summary, the plot is about Grady, a rich teenage New Yorker, who is left alone in the city one summer while her parents travel abroad. During this time, she falls in love with Clyde, a Jewish car park attendant and makes some very rash choices that have very severe consequences. Sounds good, no?

I found this to be a fantastic outline for a great novel, but the actual manuscript to be verbose and jumpy- meaning that it jumps around from thought to thought. This could have been to me a perfectly brilliant novel, but I felt it lacked detail and background. What also really annoyed me were the long, rambling sentences:

Lucy McNeil’s own debut had been a famous and sentimental affair: her grandmother, a rightfully celebrated New Orleans beauty who had married South Carolina’s Senator LaTrotta, presented Lucy and her two sisters en masse at a Camellia ball in Charleston in April of 1920; it was a presentation truly, for the three LaTrotta sisters were no more than schoolgirls whose social adventures had been heretofore conducted within the shackles of a church; so hungrily had Lucy whirled that night her feet for days had worn the bruises of this entrance into living, so hungrily had she kissed the Governor’s son that her cheeks had flamed a month in remorseful shame, for her sisters- spinsters then and spinsters still- claimed kissing made babies: no, her grandmother said, hearing her teary confession, kissing does not make babies- neither does it make ladies. (p8-9)

Yes, that’s one sentence. Phew. Even though the last part about kissing is quite cute, it rambles on and on and on. I didn’t find this when I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I haven’t read In Cold Blood yet (not sure if I will now).

While it’s interesting, I think if you’re after discontented American youngsters in the 1950’s you would be better off reading Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road which is much better executed in my opinion.

6 out of 10.

(Please excuse the awful picture- it was late and everyone was working at the table).

5 thoughts on “Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

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  1. I read this a few years ago when I was going through a Capote phase, so I can’t remember in much detail what I thought of it but I know I liked it. But I didn’t think it compared to his other work either. I love Capote. 🙂

  2. In Cold Blood is a very different writing style to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Summer Crossing, so you might still enjoy it. 🙂 I also recommend the short story collections of Capote’s, they’re really wonderful.

    1. I might try In Cold Blood- after all, it is a Popular Penguin and very affordable. I just found all those commas hard to handle, particularly after a long, tiring work week!

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