Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Book Review: Summer Crossing

I've just finished a short novel by Truman Capote. I picked it up after cataloging it at work because the dust jacket noted that it was published posthumously and only just after being discovered in a pile of papers bought for the Capote collection at the New York Public Library. (Oh how I love archives!) The story behind the story goes like this - Capote had been living in Brooklyn and then in 1966 up and moved to Manhattan leaving instructions to the landlord to throw out all his belongings on the sidewalk for the trash. A house-sitter scooped up all the papers and notebooks left behind (including personal letters and high school writing samples) and later after his death a few years ago, the papers went up for sale at Sotheby's. At this point, it was discovered that there was an entire unpublished manuscript that Capote had written and set aside - this being Summer Crossing. Thus the trustee for Capote's estate decided to publish the novel.

The story itself is short but quite sweet. It's a bit rough around the edges, but likely this is because Capote never finished with it himself. Had he decided to go with it, this would have become his first published novel. Still, it's a light, fun read. I've never read any of his other works, but now I'm interested to check out Breakfast at Tiffany's at least.

The main character is Grady MacNeil, the daughter of social Manhattanites who have left New York to summer in Paris. Grady is 17 and left alone for the first time in her life. The reader will find her likeable, although apparently she's quite the outsider amongst her peers preferring to spend time by herself, with her one quirky male best friend, or more importantly for the story, with her first love - Clyde Manzer, a parking attendant at her garage who happens to be poor and Jewish. Over the course of the summer, their relationship stumbles along as each of them attempts to understand the other across the bridge of their class and cultural divides. The ending feels very unsubstantial and dissatisfying, but the novel is still a fun look into the culture of early 20th Century New York.

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