Capote’s Southern Gothic

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

Released the same year as Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms probably never had an honest chance for me.  However, despite a somewhat contrived take on coming-of-age/bildungsroman, the novel still has plenty of other elements to draw the reader in.  Not the least of which is the spellbinding cast of Southern Gothic characters.  Amidst the one-armed barber, wart-faced convenience store proprietress and charm-wielding Little Sunshine, our hero, Joel Harrison Knox, never lacks a conversational partner.  In addition to the intriguing residents in and around Skully’s Landing, Capote expertly tackles a touchy issue of the time–homosexuality.  Cousin Randolph’s sexuality is handled expertly.  Cousin Randolph is no stock character, he is fully developed and earnest, certainly a rarity for a gay character in the early twentieth century.  Despite these themes, overall, this is the story of Joel’s coming of age.  And this, though it felt expected and laborious at times, is also handled well.  Capote forces Joel to face the horrors (Zoo’s rape) and pleasures (an honest love for Cousin Randolph and Idabel) of adulthood and thus inducts him artfully.

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