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At the centre of Music for Chameleons is Handcarved Coffins, a ‘nonfiction novel’ based on the brutal crimes of a real-life murderer.Taking place in a small Midwestern town in America, it offers chilling insights into the mind of a killer and the obsession of the man bringing him to justice. Also in this volume are six short stories and seven ‘conversational portraits’ including a t At the centre of Music for Chameleons is Handcarved Coffins, a ‘nonfiction novel’ based on the brutal crimes of a real-life murderer.Taking place in a small Midwestern town in America, it offers chilling insights into the mind of a killer and the obsession of the man bringing him to justice. Also in this volume are six short stories and seven ‘conversational portraits’ including a touching one of Marilyn Monroe, the ‘beautiful child’ and a hilarious one of a dope-smoking cleaning lady doing her rounds in New York.


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At the centre of Music for Chameleons is Handcarved Coffins, a ‘nonfiction novel’ based on the brutal crimes of a real-life murderer.Taking place in a small Midwestern town in America, it offers chilling insights into the mind of a killer and the obsession of the man bringing him to justice. Also in this volume are six short stories and seven ‘conversational portraits’ including a t At the centre of Music for Chameleons is Handcarved Coffins, a ‘nonfiction novel’ based on the brutal crimes of a real-life murderer.Taking place in a small Midwestern town in America, it offers chilling insights into the mind of a killer and the obsession of the man bringing him to justice. Also in this volume are six short stories and seven ‘conversational portraits’ including a touching one of Marilyn Monroe, the ‘beautiful child’ and a hilarious one of a dope-smoking cleaning lady doing her rounds in New York.

30 review for Music for Chameleons

  1. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    This book is very heterogeneous and for those who do not know Truman Capote, this one would allow them to have an overview of the writing of the author. This book brings together as much short novels as the short novel Custom Coffin and portraits and conversations that the author had with famous characters (as here, Marilyn Monroe) who, under the pen of Capote, suddenly come back to life before our eyes. In the short stories gathered here, the author has fun taking the reader to the four corners This book is very heterogeneous and for those who do not know Truman Capote, this one would allow them to have an overview of the writing of the author. This book brings together as much short novels as the short novel Custom Coffin and portraits and conversations that the author had with famous characters (as here, Marilyn Monroe) who, under the pen of Capote, suddenly come back to life before our eyes. In the short stories gathered here, the author has fun taking the reader to the four corners of the United States and confronting him with characters who have absolutely nothing in common. Delicious reading that only confirmed my point of view on the author; is indeed the fourth book I read of him before devouring all the others until the stock runs out …

  2. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    the biggest attraction to this collection is "Handcarved Coffins", an excellent account of serial killing in a small town. by turns mysterious, frustrating, tense, and bizarre, the accounting details Capote's relationship with the FBI agent assigned to the case, who has in turn romantically assigned himself to one of the potential victims. the modus operandi of the killer is original and very upsetting. the identity of the killer does not appear to be in question; what arises over the course of the biggest attraction to this collection is "Handcarved Coffins", an excellent account of serial killing in a small town. by turns mysterious, frustrating, tense, and bizarre, the accounting details Capote's relationship with the FBI agent assigned to the case, who has in turn romantically assigned himself to one of the potential victims. the modus operandi of the killer is original and very upsetting. the identity of the killer does not appear to be in question; what arises over the course of the piece is a dual portrait of a haunted agent and an arrogant, infuriatingly entitled potential serial killer. intriguing stuff, although the ambiguity of the ending may be problematic for some. and of course there is always the chance that this True Crime story, told in the style of In Cold Blood, isn't a true crime at all, and is instead a combined product of Capote's overactive imagination and his narcissism as well. eh, who cares. whatever it may be in the end, it is still a riveting and beautifully spun tale of longing, horror, the sadness of small towns and broken lives, and the toxic power of the very rich, the very greedy, and the very, very psychotic. the rest of the collection is an assortment of interviews, musings, and at least one very interesting narrative 'story'. at times very precise portraits and landscapes are drawn, at other times Capote's preciousness and tendencies towards navel-gazing and star-worship come across a bit much. the pieces "Dazzle" and "Nocturnal Turnings" are fascinating and uncomfortable: nakedly honest self-portraits of an author whose penchants for self-admiration and self-loathing seem to be drawn in equal measures.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jon(athan) Nakapalau

    Truman Capote had a way of making you feel as if he were whispering to you in a crowded room; "here is something I know and now I will tell you" as the rest of the crowd mulled about. It is this intimacy that makes his 'crime' stories so memorable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    If you want to know more about Truman Capote, this is a better entertaining option for you. Composed of 14 short stories, Capote made himself a character in each. In the last one, in fact, he appeared as 2 characters conversing with each other. I had a nice time reading most of them because he seemed like a very versatile writer who was not afraid to experiment. I understand that these small masterpieces appeared in various magazines (New Yorker, Esquire, etc) during his time. So, probably that' If you want to know more about Truman Capote, this is a better entertaining option for you. Composed of 14 short stories, Capote made himself a character in each. In the last one, in fact, he appeared as 2 characters conversing with each other. I had a nice time reading most of them because he seemed like a very versatile writer who was not afraid to experiment. I understand that these small masterpieces appeared in various magazines (New Yorker, Esquire, etc) during his time. So, probably that's the reason why each of them had to be fresh, engaging and interesting. You see, to keep the readers always looking forward to his piece in each issue of the magazine. I. MUSIC FOR CHAMELEONS Music for the Chameleons. 3 STARS The narrator is a guest in a lovely house in Martinique. There is an aristocratic lady in the house and she takes care of chameleons. She plays music for them to emit different colors. I am not sure what Capote's exact message is but I thought that the colors of the chameleons symbolize the ever-changing opinion of the aristocrats with regards to the aboriginals in the island. Mr. Jones. 2 STARS So, who was Mr. Jones and why did he disappear so suddenly? What was Capote's motive in telling his reader that the narrator saw him in the train again? I just did not get it. I know there is a point there somewhere but sorry. A Lamp in the Window. 4 STARS I liked the ending. It was unexpected. I like it when Capote shows his quirkiness, i.e., his fun side. We know he was gay and gays are fun people. So, this story comes off as sincere and fun too. But don't get me wrong, this is not funny. Know what I mean? Mojave. 3 STARS An old masseur who is left all alone in a desert by his prostitute wife while he is urinating. In their trailer is the wife's lover whose hair is full of smelly pomade. Despite what the wife did, the elderly man says that he still loves his wife. This reminded me of gay men who knew all along that they were being fooled by their lovers and yet they were blind. So pathetic yet we all know this happens, gay or straight. Hospitality. 3 STARS Seems like this one is a true-to-life experience of Capote while growing up during the Depression. I just wondered where they got all those food while many Americans go hungry like what I read in Out of the Dust and of course book:The Grapes of Wrath|4395]. Dazzle. 4 STARS Very funny childhood story of a gay boy Capote. He teased the reader on what he would ask the witch for. I thought I knew and then Capote made a twist but still I got it right. This is a breakthrough story because in here, Capote made known to the world that when he was young, (view spoiler)[he wanted to be a girl. (hide spoiler)] II. HANDCARVED COFFINS A Nonfiction Account of an American Crime. 4 STARS A well-loved politician in an small town in the South has been discovered to be the mastermind for the killing of members of the committee. The said committee denied his huge track of land the proper irrigation since the river was diverted. I liked the story telling and the playfulness of Capote's character (yes, he is in the story just like the other stories in this book) especially the references to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton's male characters. I should read a Wharton and resume my reading of Austen books. This comprises half of the book. I think he wrote this as a follow up to In Cold Blood. However, according to Wiki, this is basically fiction as there was no criminal case like this. However, Capote is one of the characters here and the events parallel those of In Cold Blood. In that said masterpiece of him, Capote did not appear as a character. III. CONVERSATIONAL PORTRAITS A Day's Work. 3 STARS Capote joins and observes a girl Friday cleaning the houses of the rich and famous in Italy. Not all of them are rich and famous but with juicy stories. There is a reality TV show like this, I think. Hello Stranger. 4 STARS "Shades of Humbert Humbert," says Capote but George Claxton doesn't read books because he hates literature. When they were young, Capote did all the book reports of George while the later did all his assignments in Algebra. Capote flunked first year Algebra thrice even with the help of a tutor! I think I can relate to this. Not in my case, but someone dear. Hidden Gardens. 2 STARS I got distracted by the shift in narratives. All I understood was a guy with a huge prick and he put it on the girl who inquired about it and the girl's hair turned white overnight (because of intense pressure). Maybe Capote meant this to be a joke and I took it seriously? Derring-do. 2 STARS Maybe I was just too tired while reading this part late last night. It seemed like another In Cold Blood criminal case this time with a serial killer facing execution soon. Other than that, this one did not leave anything in my mind. Then It All Came Down. 3 STARS This one also has similarities with some scenes in Capote's In Cold Blood. Well, this book was his follow up to that best-selling novel of him, right? In here, Capote is conversing with an inmate in the maximum-security cell block. The inmate, Robert Beausoleil, was charged of multiple murder. In the conversation, Capote or CP is namedropping; claiming to have met Lee Harvey Oswald, Priscilla Johnson, etc. Based on Wiki, party-boy Capote hobnobbed with the rich and famous. A Beautiful Child. 4 STARS Ha! This is the cutest story here. Marilyn Monroe, the sex goddess during Capote's time, appears as herself talking with our genius writer. It reminds me of beautiful girls in the campus with gay man as sidekick or bestfriend. This made me want to read a book about Marilyn Monroe. The way she expresses herself here is... cute! Nocturnal Turnings, or How Siamese Twins Have Sex. 5 STARS Don't be misled by the title. There is nothing obscene here. They slept in the end. "They" means Capote and Capote. Two personas in one body. They talk to each other and unlike the angel and the demon, the ying and yang, they are not completely opposites. So, you have to really take time to read their banters. Brilliant and funny. Very Capote. I think this collection of his works was entitled "Music for Chameleons" because like what was in the first story, we readers are like chameleons that change our colors depending on the music provided to us. In this case, the music is provided by Capote. He writes, we read. Then our reaction varies depending on his style. And he has a lot of those (styles) up his sleeves.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    In this collection of fiction and non-fiction from late in Capote's life, he shows us that while his fiction may be depleting, his non-fiction is as sharp as ever. The stories at the beginning of the book didn't do anything for me. They were all very middling and detracted from this work in my opinion. "Handcarved Coffins" is a work in the style In Cold Blood but the recent discovery that most of it was probably made up does make it hard to suspend disbelief. However, the real jewel in this collectio In this collection of fiction and non-fiction from late in Capote's life, he shows us that while his fiction may be depleting, his non-fiction is as sharp as ever. The stories at the beginning of the book didn't do anything for me. They were all very middling and detracted from this work in my opinion. "Handcarved Coffins" is a work in the style In Cold Blood but the recent discovery that most of it was probably made up does make it hard to suspend disbelief. However, the real jewel in this collection, the reason why it's getting three-stars, is A Beautiful Child. The transcript of the day Capote spent with Marilyn Monroe is absolutely fantastic. It portrays a side of Monroe that we never really got to see, we see her as a human being. It is utterly wonderful and strangely poetic. It's just a shame that the rest of this work doesn't live up to it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    Review to follow. On a book buying trip. Whooopeeeee! And after some nice finds, it's back to business. Music for Chameleons: New Writing by Truman Capote Including Handcarved Coffins Although Random House plugs Music for Chameleons as new writings by Truman Capote, when it was published in 1980, all of the pieces had appeared in the two preceding years in Capote's usual venues, "Esquire," "Interview," "McCall's," "New York Magazine," and "The New Yorker." Within four years, Capote would be dead. The jacket photo revealed an older, perhaps more contemplative writer.business.Music Review to follow. On a book buying trip. Whooopeeeee! And after some nice finds, it's back to business. Music for Chameleons: New Writing by Truman Capote Including Handcarved Coffins Although Random House plugs Music for Chameleons as new writings by Truman Capote, when it was published in 1980, all of the pieces had appeared in the two preceding years in Capote's usual venues, "Esquire," "Interview," "McCall's," "New York Magazine," and "The New Yorker." Within four years, Capote would be dead. The jacket photo revealed an older, perhaps more contemplative writer. There is no cigarette in his hand. As he indicated in one segment, he had quit smoking years ago. In the final segment of the book, "Nocturnal Turnings," Capote interviews himself, looking back at his life--his fears, his faith, his faults. "TC: What frightens you?" "TC: Real toads in imaginary gardens. "TC: No, but in real life--" "TC: I'm talking about real life." "TC: Let me put it another way. What, of your own experiences, hae been the most frightening?" "TC: Betrayals. Abandonments."... "And that's when I began to believe in God again, and understand that Sook was right, that everything was His design, the old moon and the new moon, the hard rain falling, and if only I would ask Him to help me, He would." "TC: And has He?" "TC: Yes. More and more. But I'm not a saint yet. I'm an aloholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm homosexual. I'm a genius. Of course, I could be all four of these dubious things and still be a saint. But I shonuf ain't no saint yet, nawsuh." And while Capote seems to have begun to contemplate his mortality, the range and depth of the writing in this anthology is breathtaking. All but one of the fourteen segments of the book are claimed to be non-fiction, or perhaps as Capote invented the form, non-fiction fiction, in these examples, short vignettes, portraits of people he knew and met, killers he interviewed in addition to Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Only one story, "Mojave," Capote claimed as fiction, or in his own coy fashion as he said he wrote it as if it were. Capote ranges from the mysterious, where chameleons dance to piano music played by an old woman on Martinique. Is it real or is it the influence of Absinthe laced in his tea? Fiction or non-fiction? He reveals his humor while evading a subpoena to testify in the retrial of Bobby Beausoleil for the murder of Gary Hinman, the first of what came to be known as the Manson Family murders. He had promised what Beausoleil had told him would remain confidential. When Beausoleil was granted a new trial, Capote was served with a subpoena. His sneaking on a plane, dressed as one of Pearl Bailey's musician's, his head pressed to her bosom as she wrapped her arm around his shoulder will leave you howling. His meanness emerges in his portrait of Marilyn Monroe, whom he portrays her as "A Beautiful Child" who calls her competition cunts, pops pills and drinks way too much. "A Beautiful Child?" perhaps so, perhaps not. But it is in "Handcarved Coffins" that Capote reveals his mastery in the depiction of true crime. An unknown killer has targeted nine different victims. Each has received a handcarved coffin in which the killer has placed a candid black and white photo of his intended victim. Capote is referred to investigator Jake Pepper to render his opinion of the killings and the evidence that is too scant to make an arrest. The killings are diabolical. A couple enters a car filled with rattlesnakes pumped up on amphetamines to make them even more aggressive than they are in nature. A wire stretched across the road decapitates another. Will Pepper get his man, or not? Capote stretches out the tension at a nerve wracking pace, plummeting the reader to despair with each successful killing. This is a masterpiece. Pure and simple. Pepper and Capote put the pieces together, discovering the killer has a darkroom and prefers German cameras. Capote's interview skills are intuitive and directly on point. However, subsequent research by London Sunday Times reporters Peter and Leni Gillman shows that no case containing the details in this short piece exist in any law enforcement file. In all probability it was based on an unsolved case of Kansas Bureau of Investigation Agent Alvin Dewy whom Capote met during his work on "In Cold Blood." Capote was growing tired. There were no other novels. "Answered Prayers" remained unfinished. One Christmas appeared as a short story in "The Ladies' Home Journal" in December, 1982. Then a short article "Remembering Tennessee" appeared in "Playboy Magazine." There was nothing more. Once more I think of "Nocturnal Turnings." Capote knew he was slowing down. He knew he was tired. "TC:...Now let's knock it off and try for some shut-eye." TC: But first let's say a prayer. Let's say our old prayer. The one we used to say when we were real little and slept in the same bed with Sook and Queenie, with the quilts piled on top of us because the house was so big and cold. TC: Our old prayer? Okay. TC and TC: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen. TC: Goodnight. TC: Goodnight.... TC and TC: Zzzzzzzzzzzz." For a final look at Truman Capote's last burst of creativity, this is the book to read, fiction or non-fiction.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John

    I'd been teaching In Cold Blood for two semesters and used the preface to this to introduce In Cold Blood, so I figured I might as well read the rest of the book. This is late-period Capote, mostly a mishmash of personal essays, anecdotes, and a novella-length true crime story. First of all, the preface makes Capote seem like a self-involved jackass (which he by most accounts was - remember the postscript to the movie saying he never recovered from writing In Cold Blood?), but it also I'd been teaching In Cold Blood for two semesters and used the preface to this to introduce In Cold Blood, so I figured I might as well read the rest of the book. This is late-period Capote, mostly a mishmash of personal essays, anecdotes, and a novella-length true crime story. First of all, the preface makes Capote seem like a self-involved jackass (which he by most accounts was - remember the postscript to the movie saying he never recovered from writing In Cold Blood?), but it also reveals his dislike for his own work, including In Cold Blood; he even says he went back and rewrote much of the novel, Unanswered Prayers, that ironically was never finished. About the work included in this book, he says basically two things: 1. He wants to "combine within a single form - say the short story - all he knows about every other form of writing" 2. Instead of consciously leaving himself out of his writing, "I set myself center stage, and reconstructed, in a severe, minimal manner, commonplace conversations with everyday people: the superintendent of my building, a masseur at the gym, an old school friend, [Marilyn Monroe, Robert Beausoleil, the two sides of himself - you know, everyday people]…" So the book is divided into 3 parts, the first and third being mostly brief snapshots and anecdotes that seem kind of retrogressive to me, harking back to his early days writing about Brooklyn Heights, only now he's moved to the Upper East Side. The Marilyn Monroe piece is mostly trifling and I'm sure did no favors to her reputation, but has a clever, moderately powerful turn-of-phrase ending it. "Mojave," the only pure fiction included in the collection, is easily the worst apple in the bunch; it says a lot about the scarcity of good writing Capote was doing by this time, and really should have been relegated to post-mortem collections. The Beausoleil piece, like a few others in the collection, is pretty much just an interview transcript from his conversations with Charles Manson's cohort, but has some interesting, fairly astute comments from Beausoleil about Perry Smith and Capote's relationship with him. "Hello, Stranger" is also emblematic of other pieces here, as it reveals a growing, unsettling antipathy Capote has developed for the inhabitants of the world and his writing - an alcoholic old friend of Capote's comes to him for advice about an sexual encounter with a minor that never happened and his ensuing nervous breakdown, and Capote's foremost observations are that the guy is now thirty pounds overweight and used to have Capote write his English papers in prep school (he in turn did Capote's math problems). The one piece that I would say could have been published by anyone outside a decrepit Truman Capote was the true-crime novella, "Handcarved Coffins." Most of it annoyingly also follows the interview/stage directions format (I guess that's what Capote was referring to when he said he wanted to transcend genre), but the plot itself is engrossing from the start. More than In Cold Blood it seems almost too implausible to happen, and unlike ICB Capote consciously makes himself a central character of this story of a renegade ranch owner-turned-serial-killer. Overall, Music for Chameleons falls directly into the Read-It-If-You-Like-Capote category. It probably reveals more about his own (late-life) personality than any of his other work and has flashes of good stuff, but is almost laughably self-referential and self-congratulatory, especially the last piece, a silly dialogue between Capote (TC) and himself (also TC). (At this point, John pats himself on the back profusely with one hand while typing with the other): John Proctor: That was an excellent review, John. Plenty of pithy witticisms sprinkled over specific references make this perhaps your best yet. JP (sighing): I dunno. Sometimes I think nobody even reads these things anyway. JP (with a chuckle): Well of course they don't. That's the nature of book reviews, and why you haven't published anything of substance yourself yet. JP: So why do I even write then? JP: The more important question is: Why don't you stop writing? (At this, JP instinctively reaches for the mouse and clicks on "Preview," then "Save")

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rick Burin

    A book of extraordinary grace, incisiveness and honesty which further bolsters my impression that Capote remains one of the most important, original and underestimated writers of his era. Fuck his artificial image as a catty, trivial, morbid starfucker, and study the work: dark, devastating, morally decent work shot through with his actual character, the shadows of an encroaching darkness creeping across the sun-dappled idyll of his New Orleans childhood. Even fans tend to lean on a popular narr A book of extraordinary grace, incisiveness and honesty which further bolsters my impression that Capote remains one of the most important, original and underestimated writers of his era. Fuck his artificial image as a catty, trivial, morbid starfucker, and study the work: dark, devastating, morally decent work shot through with his actual character, the shadows of an encroaching darkness creeping across the sun-dappled idyll of his New Orleans childhood. Even fans tend to lean on a popular narrative – pushed in last decade’s cinematic biopics – that sees him in terminal decline after the trial of In Cold Blood, but while it’s true that he degenerated into substance abuse (an affliction dealt with in breathtaking fashion in the last of these 14 pieces), and that with it his work-rate slowed, this book may well be his creative zenith. In Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, he explains (entirely preposterously) that in the late ‘80s he found a new way to sing: a mathematical formula that has enabled his voice to endure his Never Ending Tour (please post your punchlines below). Here, Capote does much the same, denigrating his entire back catalogue as he seeks to articulate exactly why, and how, he’s developed the new style premiered in this book. Unlike Dylan, who is talking through his silly cowboy hat, Capote is sincere. His style here is so clean, precise and economical, yet to formally inventive, that it takes the breath away. Every decision he makes, from delayed gratification, to leading with dialogue, to drifting into remembrance and reminiscence, seems right, and his evocation of emotion, of nature, and of character is remarkably specific and so uniquely powerful. There are six short stories and seven conversational portraits, alongside a non-fiction (?) centrepiece about a serial killer, and each is remarkable in one way or another. Perhaps my favourite piece is Dazzle, a multi-layered story with a time-shifting perspective that’s about love, fear and guilt, as Capote relives the story of his paternal grandfather, a fortune teller and two terrible secrets: one comic, the other tragic. It is flecked with wonder, touched by horror, and redolent with an unstudied compassion for his younger self, before a climactic sucker-punch that knocked me sideways. But it’s just one masterpiece among many. The other short stories are rich in irony, but unwaveringly sincere, as they deal with self-loathing, denial and the secrets (or unspoken truths) that dominate the book, while his egalitarian ‘portraits’ take in a weed-smoking cleaner, Marilyn Monroe, pastoral novelist Willa Cather and amoral Manson acolyte Bobby Beausoleil: though you could class the first of those as ‘hilarious’ and the last as ‘chilling’, that’s to reduce them from the multi-faceted, playful, probing, touching, humane and sad works that they are. The only piece that doesn't quite work for me, at least not unequivocally, is Handcarved Coffins, the lengthy true crime chapter at the book's centre. It has passages of great insight – on sexuality, obsession, delusion – but at times its language is oddly forced, and ultimately I'm not sure exactly what the point is that Capote is constantly circling and yet never quite landing upon. It makes sense, perhaps, that when the book does malfunction, it's in both style and content, for it's the balancing of form, viewpoint and revelation, both overt and within the reader, that is the book's great strength. Music for Chameleons is beautifully-written, but even Capote’s admirers often stop right there, and it’s much more than that. His swaggering, elegant, stylistic brilliance – even as a supposed has-been, with a pickled liver and a nose stuffed with coke – is really a way of packing as much wit, pathos and meaning into each line as possible. His style is not an end in itself, it's the way he carries truth to the reader.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jaksen

    Excellent anthology of short stories, essays and one short nonfiction piece. These stories show the full range of Capote's talent, ability with words and description as well as give insight to some of the famous people - via conversations - who Capote consorted with, entertained, interacted with and had as intimates and friends. Though all of these 'events' happened thirty years ago or more, they feel fresh and new. Sometimes I am surprised that 'we' used 'that expression' back in the 70's? Or 6 Excellent anthology of short stories, essays and one short nonfiction piece. These stories show the full range of Capote's talent, ability with words and description as well as give insight to some of the famous people - via conversations - who Capote consorted with, entertained, interacted with and had as intimates and friends. Though all of these 'events' happened thirty years ago or more, they feel fresh and new. Sometimes I am surprised that 'we' used 'that expression' back in the 70's? Or 60's? Often what feels new is very old. My favorite, the long nonfiction piece about a murderer who sends his victims hand-carved coffins with their photograph inside. A conversation with Marilyn Monroe is also great, revealing her insecurities as well as her talent. His day spent with a woman who cleaned houses was also fascinating, a snippet of time from over forty years ago and something that would have been lost had he not captured it so well. His was a life cut too short, for sure. A great read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Really good book of short true stories by Capote. If you have never read anything of his, this would be a good place to try on his style.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rick Rowland

    I think I just discovered my new favorite book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roozbeh Estifaee

    I had heared of Truman Capote as a creator of what is called "non-fiction novel". Though not sure about what it meant, I was absorbed by the idea this expression suggested. So I read Music for Chameleons and boy! That was something! The book is conducted in three parts: Music for Chameleons, Handcarved Coffins, and Conversational Portraits. The first is a set of six "non-fiction" short stories, which are, to say, perfect stories from which the "tale" is taken. The second part is a short novel, written in the same manner. It I had heared of Truman Capote as a creator of what is called "non-fiction novel". Though not sure about what it meant, I was absorbed by the idea this expression suggested. So I read Music for Chameleons and boy! That was something! The book is conducted in three parts: Music for Chameleons, Handcarved Coffins, and Conversational Portraits. The first is a set of six "non-fiction" short stories, which are, to say, perfect stories from which the "tale" is taken. The second part is a short novel, written in the same manner. It is a crime story based on the murders of a serial killer. But the third, and I think the best, part of the book includes seven conversations between Capote and some people in his life, like a cleaning lady, Marilyn Monroe, and even a talk between him and himself! In a very enlightening preface to the book, Capote talks about writing and expresses his reasons for coming up with non-fiction novel. One of his main goals is, as he mentions, to take use of all he knows about writing in a single form. That's what you can easily see in this book. From journalic essays to film-scripts and fiction, there is a bit every kind of prose writing in his work. And the point is, he shows great skills in writing them all! Capote's style and ability to write, along with the continuous presence of his charming character throughout the book, made this a joy for me to read; and I'm confident enough to suggest it to all those who love reading as a serious business, which is not solely intended to fill up their free time and let them rest.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Halley Sutton

    Hmm. Hmm. Lots of thoughts here. 1. I'd read a grocery list if Truman Capote wrote it, so I am not unbiased in my review. 2. That said. Jesus, what a preface! I sure love to read him, but I can't imagine he was any picnic to know, particularly in later years. (Although who wouldn't have loved to split a bottle of champagne with him and Marilyn Monroe, seriously.) Particularly of interest was the line about discovering what is true and what is REALLY true. Where in Capote's psyche did "Handc Hmm. Hmm. Lots of thoughts here. 1. I'd read a grocery list if Truman Capote wrote it, so I am not unbiased in my review. 2. That said. Jesus, what a preface! I sure love to read him, but I can't imagine he was any picnic to know, particularly in later years. (Although who wouldn't have loved to split a bottle of champagne with him and Marilyn Monroe, seriously.) Particularly of interest was the line about discovering what is true and what is REALLY true. Where in Capote's psyche did "Handcarved Coffins" fall there? Is he acknowledging that this story, which he insisted was fact, was true but not REALLY true or did he get so far wrapped up in the myth of it that he started to believe it was true-- and that in fact made it "true", his belief in it? Does it matter if this story is true or not, in much the same way the Trojan War, as fact, doesn't really matter because it created great art and literature-- so the historical basis of it is negligible? (Paging Bob Sacamanoff.) I'm not sure that it does. On the other hand, I can see how much interest would be generated by this story because of the "true story" factor and particularly in the wake of "In Cold Blood"-- but it's still a great novella, regardless of how Capote positioned it. I'm sure he would've loved the expose and controversy. Kim Kardashian's literary predecessor. (KIDDING.) Clearly missing my undergrad lit-paper writing days. Sorry.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I liked the first two thirds of this book quite a lot. Capote was just an amazingly skilled writer, and his clean, thoughtful prose really worked for me. However, I found the last third (Conversational Portraits) pretty irritating. In the first part of the book, even though Capote is a character in all stories, and is a strong narrative presence, it didn't overwhelm the work. The third part, though, is Capote in full-blown egomaniac, name-dropping mode. I could've done without the nearly minute- I liked the first two thirds of this book quite a lot. Capote was just an amazingly skilled writer, and his clean, thoughtful prose really worked for me. However, I found the last third (Conversational Portraits) pretty irritating. In the first part of the book, even though Capote is a character in all stories, and is a strong narrative presence, it didn't overwhelm the work. The third part, though, is Capote in full-blown egomaniac, name-dropping mode. I could've done without the nearly minute-by-minute account of him getting high with his maid. The last story really sums up this section well: in it, Capote is having a conversation with himself, jacking off, and reciting a list of famous people he hates. Enough said. I recommend the second part, Handcarved Coffins, though. It is an account of a series of unsolved murders in a small American town and Capote's writing really shines.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ryal Woods

    This is the book that sparked my appreciation of metaphor. "She sounds the way bananas taste" "a lemony slice of new moon" - floridly simple, but it impressed the hell out of me as a kid. Capote is telling stories even as he relates his true encounters with famous and infamous people, and memories of his Southern childhood. This collection contains Handcarved Coffins, written in similar style to In Cold Blood. You can never tell when Capote is telling truths or lies - I suspect he didn't know th This is the book that sparked my appreciation of metaphor. "She sounds the way bananas taste" "a lemony slice of new moon" - floridly simple, but it impressed the hell out of me as a kid. Capote is telling stories even as he relates his true encounters with famous and infamous people, and memories of his Southern childhood. This collection contains Handcarved Coffins, written in similar style to In Cold Blood. You can never tell when Capote is telling truths or lies - I suspect he didn't know the difference, as from a very young age he lived in a world spun from stories to romanticize his reality. Lucky for us, and pitiable for him.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Sciuto

    Going back and re-reading the works of Truman Capote is like visiting an old and trusted and extremely wise friend. Mr Capote as much as any writer I have read, knew the difference between good writing and very good writing and between very good writing and brilliant writing. And for most of his career, his writing was brilliant. He could write as descriptively and beautifully as F. Scott Fitzgerald or as descriptively and brutally realistic as Joseph Conrad, but as much as any writer Going back and re-reading the works of Truman Capote is like visiting an old and trusted and extremely wise friend. Mr Capote as much as any writer I have read, knew the difference between good writing and very good writing and between very good writing and brilliant writing. And for most of his career, his writing was brilliant. He could write as descriptively and beautifully as F. Scott Fitzgerald or as descriptively and brutally realistic as Joseph Conrad, but as much as any writer he knew the correct balance when it came to his writing, his subjects, and his characters. "Music For Chameleons" includes a wonderful collection of short stories and a brilliant and gripping short, non-fiction, novel called "Handcarved Coffins." The stories are quite a diversified collection of Americana and the locations include New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, the Midwest, and Alabama...and a little bit of Italy, Russia, and Switzland. Mr Capote feels as much at home writing about Hollywood stars, as he does about cleaning ladies working in Manhattan, or as he does about writing about murderers and a member of the Manson clan. The one thing all the stories and the novel have in common is a vivid, undeniable "honesty." "Honesty," the most important quality that only the greatest of writers have ever achieved.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜

    God dang Truman Capote is the gayest, funniest, most flamboyant author I know of. I read this book of short stories in just a little over an hour and laughed my butt off at some of them. Even though Truman Capote comes off as a bit of a bastard to most people (sometimes for good reasons), he is genuinely a very interesting and intelligent intellectual who, I swear to God, must be the biggest socialite in American History. Heck, one of the short stories is simply about a conversation between him God dang Truman Capote is the gayest, funniest, most flamboyant author I know of. I read this book of short stories in just a little over an hour and laughed my butt off at some of them. Even though Truman Capote comes off as a bit of a bastard to most people (sometimes for good reasons), he is genuinely a very interesting and intelligent intellectual who, I swear to God, must be the biggest socialite in American History. Heck, one of the short stories is simply about a conversation between him and Marilyn Monroe. It's a quick short story but is just fascinating. I think it may have been the first story to acknowledge that Marilyn Monroe wasn't a dumb blonde...which is pretty impeccable. Some stories are achingly honest and kind of sad such as the Marilyn Monroe story, but most of them are very interesting and, if you have a good sense of humor, will laugh.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I believe that the pieces comprising this book were written after Capote abandoned the novel that was ultimately published, in unfinished form, as "Answered Prayers". Even though he struggled with his novel, he still showed his gifts for observation and characterization in the short stories that form the first part of this book. They are not individually titled, but all fall under the heading Music for Chameleons. There are some wonderful stories here, starting with the chameleons transfixed by I believe that the pieces comprising this book were written after Capote abandoned the novel that was ultimately published, in unfinished form, as "Answered Prayers". Even though he struggled with his novel, he still showed his gifts for observation and characterization in the short stories that form the first part of this book. They are not individually titled, but all fall under the heading Music for Chameleons. There are some wonderful stories here, starting with the chameleons transfixed by a Mozart sonata. This was my favorite part of the book. Part two of the book is a nonfiction novella called Handcarved Coffins. It follows a murder investigation, and is similar to, but not as good as, "In Cold Blood". The final part of the book is called Conversational Pieces. My main takeaway from this part of the book is that Capote had a really interesting life, knew everyone and went everywhere. Unlike in most of his other writing, Capote himself was a character in each of the three parts of this book. He was a fascinating creation.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I think it is safe to say that Capote was haunted by his early success with Other Voices, Other Rooms, the popularity of Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the burden of writing what Ernest Hemingway called, "the Classic American Novel," In Cold Blood. By the time that he wrote Music for Chameleons, Capote was drinking heavily and deeply depressed. This book is an pastiche of bit and pieces of Capote's writing. His interview with Bobby Beausoleil from the Manson family is one of the more interesting pieces included here. Even though t I think it is safe to say that Capote was haunted by his early success with Other Voices, Other Rooms, the popularity of Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the burden of writing what Ernest Hemingway called, "the Classic American Novel," In Cold Blood. By the time that he wrote Music for Chameleons, Capote was drinking heavily and deeply depressed. This book is an pastiche of bit and pieces of Capote's writing. His interview with Bobby Beausoleil from the Manson family is one of the more interesting pieces included here. Even though the writing is uneven, it is Capote, and even on his worst days, he wrote with more clarity and precision than 99% of the other authors on the planet.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    A good read, as one might expect with Capote. Includes the maddening true story "Handcarved Coffins," which introduces Capote's own definition of the perfect crime, and an interview he did with Bobby Beausoleil.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicolas Chinardet

    There is no doubt that Capote is a fantastic writer. His words flow beautifully and effortlessly. Whatever anecdote he chooses to relate becomes alive on the page and in the reader's mind. Yet, for there is a "yet", this ragtag collection of writings fails to be as satisfying as it should be. It is a mostly random collection of vignettes, little scraps of stories that don't quite seem to be going anywhere. As mentioned, that does not mean that the reading of them is not enjoyable and sometimes e There is no doubt that Capote is a fantastic writer. His words flow beautifully and effortlessly. Whatever anecdote he chooses to relate becomes alive on the page and in the reader's mind. Yet, for there is a "yet", this ragtag collection of writings fails to be as satisfying as it should be. It is a mostly random collection of vignettes, little scraps of stories that don't quite seem to be going anywhere. As mentioned, that does not mean that the reading of them is not enjoyable and sometimes engrossing or even moving (The piece featuring Marilyn Monroe was uncharacteristically tender and touchingly revealing). However, as a story-teller, someone who prides himself in having invented a new narrative genre (the "non-fictional novel", the pieces in this book being embryonic examples of such writing), Capote seems to forget the most elemental rule of narration, which is that there should be some sort of narrative arch, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Here Capote consistently fails on that last point, and the mildly amusing witticisms he uses to bring off most of those texts are no replacement to meaningful conclusions that give a point to what precedes. Another sore point for me, about this collection, is Capote's looming presence throughout. Of course, the cliché is that authors only really write about themselves but this aphorism has never been more true than in the present case. Even though they encompass a wide range of subjects and situations, Capote is the link between all the pieces in this book. He is ostensibly only a detached witness, a reporter of facts uninvolved in what he describes, but his personality imbues the book throughout and it is impossible not to read between the lines and not to find oneself confronted with Capote. And he doesn't come across as a pleasant character. It can't be a coincidence that the last story is in fact a dialogue with himself, for this book is ultimately about Capote. It becomes a vehicle for him to make himself shine and unless you manage to overlook this, Music For Chameleons will leave an unpleasant after-taste, once you've devoured all the delicacies it offers. Which in turn raises the question of trust. Despite those stories being ostensibly journalistic in nature, how much of them can be believed to be true? How unreliable is Capote, who, in this last piece just mentioned, claims to be honest, only to be immediately contradicted by his own self. If you open this book, enjoy the virtuoso use of language by any means, but don't forget to season the experience with a large pinch of salt. I fear it is all about style and not really about substance in the end. Sadly.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Moshe Mikanovsky

    So happy I found this book! Music for Chameleons - 3* - loving the style, not so much the story. Although the image of the chameleons coming to listen to the music is beautiful Mr. Jones - 4 * - short short. Great story. A lamp in the Window - 4* - human kindness Mojave - 4* - another great storytelling. A story in a story. The spoiled rich Hospitality - 3* - starts like a fairy tale, but it is not. Dazzle - 4* - another great storytelling Handcrafted Coffins - 5*- wheth So happy I found this book! Music for Chameleons - 3* - loving the style, not so much the story. Although the image of the chameleons coming to listen to the music is beautiful Mr. Jones - 4 * - short short. Great story. A lamp in the Window - 4* - human kindness Mojave - 4* - another great storytelling. A story in a story. The spoiled rich Hospitality - 3* - starts like a fairy tale, but it is not. Dazzle - 4* - another great storytelling Handcrafted Coffins - 5*- whether the story is fiction or not, the writing is superb. So glad I got to read it. Hello Stranger - 4* - another great story of an old friend of Capote. How innocent needs can ruin one's life so quickly A Day's Work - 4* - Capote is so creative, joining his cleaning lady on her work day and entering uninvited into 3 of her clients' homes and stories, all while smoking weed. Funny and well written Hidden Gardens - 3* - good reading but a bit all over the place. a New Orleans story Derring-Do - 4* - another great one! What a talent Then It All Came Down - 4* - an interview/character study in prison with one of the murderers related to the Charles Manson epic A Beautiful Child - 4.5* - a sensitive and sometimes funny afternoon and evening which Capote spent with Marilyn Monroe, starting at a funeral and ending feeding fortune cookies to seagulls. Nocturnal Turnings, or How Siamese Twins Have Sex - 3* - wasn't too crazy about it. The concept of two TCs and then Capote interviewing himself was OK, but all over the place.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Reading Badger

    I knew almost nothing about this book. I read its back and I could notice that it’s about many stories than a single one. Newsweek writes that it’s the most enjoyable book by Truman Capote, while The New York Times Book Review sums up like this: “Capote is a stylish and storyteller like no other one.” -Most of the stories are non-fiction, so you get the chance to know true details of Marilyn Monroe’s life or to be witness to high-flown criminal cases. The book is a great anthology of I knew almost nothing about this book. I read its back and I could notice that it’s about many stories than a single one. Newsweek writes that it’s the most enjoyable book by Truman Capote, while The New York Times Book Review sums up like this: “Capote is a stylish and storyteller like no other one.” -Most of the stories are non-fiction, so you get the chance to know true details of Marilyn Monroe’s life or to be witness to high-flown criminal cases. The book is a great anthology of short stories, easy to follow. -Rarely I was given the chance to read such a master of storytelling. Truman Capote reveals himself as a fan of Agatha Christie’s work. In his way of writing, I could discover a style that is very similar to Agatha’s one. His stories of criminal cases are just another proof of his talent and ability to play with words. I loved to read him, basically because I also love Agatha Christie. -If you are a seeker of mysteries or serial killers, you will definitely feed your appetite with this book. In my humble opinion, Truman Capote is one of the greatest writers and also an author little underestimated in his era. His original style is easy to be noticed in these 14 short stories, in which Capote made himself a character in each one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Isla McKetta

    If you read Capote for the gossipy chatter, you'll love the conversations in this book. If you read him for the careful insight into human character and a mastery of plot, read The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories instead.

  25. 4 out of 5

    James

    With the exception of the autobiographical short story One Christmas, Music for Chameleons is the last book published by Capote before is death in 1984. It is an extremely readable collection of very entertaining short fiction, and wide-eyed autobiographical sketches. I would recommend it to anyone who's not yet read anything by this American treasure. I am glad I have now read something of Capote's besides In Cold Blood.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Frank O'Neill

    I recently reread Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons for the third time, and each time it feels like I’m reading it for the first time. Capote’s style is simple and unadorned, but his stories are full of marvelous and unexpected characters. One of Capote’s greatest gifts was his ability to win the confidences and friendship of people ranging from his cleaning lady to criminals to the elite of American society. Music for Chameleons is a collection of six short stories, a ‘nonfiction I recently reread Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons for the third time, and each time it feels like I’m reading it for the first time. Capote’s style is simple and unadorned, but his stories are full of marvelous and unexpected characters. One of Capote’s greatest gifts was his ability to win the confidences and friendship of people ranging from his cleaning lady to criminals to the elite of American society. Music for Chameleons is a collection of six short stories, a ‘nonfiction novel’ and seven ‘conversational portraits’. The longest piece in the book, “Handcarved Coffins”, is a real-life account of the hunt for a serial killer in “a small western state”. (Are there really any small western states?) Some of the stories are about anonymous characters in Capote’s life. Some are vignettes of famous people in his life. Derring-do is a fanciful story about how Pearl Bailey helped Capote avoid jail in California. Then It All Came Down is about a jail cell encounter with Robert Beausoleil, whose homicide Charles Manson was trying to cover up when he killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. A Beautiful Child is about a day Capote spent with Marilyn Monroe. Nocturnal Turnings is a confessional Capote wrote about himself. The pieces in Music for Chameleons are often shocking, always wildly entertaining, even if Capote may sometimes stretch the truth to turn a good tale. When all is said and done, Capote was one of the great people observers of American literature, whether he was writing novels or short stories. Music for Chameleons is a real gem.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laala Kashef Alghata

    This book is kind of odd. It has what I can only call short stories at the beginning, a nonfiction novella in the middle, and “conversational portraits” at the end. It’s also written by the fabulous Truman Capote, so I was really looking forward to reading it. Handcarved Coffins, the novella, I saved to read till last, and I’m glad I did. It’s a really sad story written in a similar kind of style as In Cold Blood, also about murder in a small town. I thought it was really well written This book is kind of odd. It has what I can only call short stories at the beginning, a nonfiction novella in the middle, and “conversational portraits” at the end. It’s also written by the fabulous Truman Capote, so I was really looking forward to reading it. Handcarved Coffins, the novella, I saved to read till last, and I’m glad I did. It’s a really sad story written in a similar kind of style as In Cold Blood, also about murder in a small town. I thought it was really well written, touching and engaging. The short stories at the beginning were good, some better than others. I wish I had my book with me to be able to give you specifics, but I know some were home run kind of great, and some were only adequate (for Capote. For anyone else they would be spectacular). The conversational portraits, on the other hand, were fascinating. Capote based them on real people (the most famous of which is A Beautiful Child, about Marilyn Monroe) and it’s a rapport between him and the other individual. They’re fantastic little snippets into somebody’s life, written out in play format, and very easy to fall into. Overall, it’s a book I loved, but I really expect no less from Capote. It’ll be a very sad day for me when I finally finish reading everything he’s written.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Misha Crews

    I love Truman Capote. The man was a prose-bound poet. His talent has always seemed to be an effortless, inborn genius: the seemingly-unlabored perfection of his words, the offhand brilliance of his dialogue, the razor-sharp vividness of his descriptions. Although all the stories in this book are gems, the shining jewel in the crown is the novella HANDCARVED COFFINS. It's a fascinating account of a small-town serial killer who sends his victims minature coffins with their pictures inside. I found I love Truman Capote. The man was a prose-bound poet. His talent has always seemed to be an effortless, inborn genius: the seemingly-unlabored perfection of his words, the offhand brilliance of his dialogue, the razor-sharp vividness of his descriptions. Although all the stories in this book are gems, the shining jewel in the crown is the novella HANDCARVED COFFINS. It's a fascinating account of a small-town serial killer who sends his victims minature coffins with their pictures inside. I found myself completely caught up in the story, unable to close the book until I reached the end. And then once it had ended, I didn't want it to be over. While Capote called this tale "A Nonfiction Account of an American Crime," we of course have to take the word "nonfiction" with a grain of salt, knowing that he never did let facts get in the way of telling a good story. But false or true, the stories in this book are great examples of a great genius. And more importantly, they're just plain fun to read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    London Hayes

    at first i didn’t know that this was a book of short stories, and i wasn’t sure that i was going to be able to get through it, since i didn’t love the beginning (“Music for Chameleons”). after i realized that it was, and started to read the different narratives, i became much more interested. my favorite section of this book was “Part III: Conversational Portraits”, where truman capote himself records conversations and moments he has had with different people! in his other books and short storie at first i didn’t know that this was a book of short stories, and i wasn’t sure that i was going to be able to get through it, since i didn’t love the beginning (“Music for Chameleons”). after i realized that it was, and started to read the different narratives, i became much more interested. my favorite section of this book was “Part III: Conversational Portraits”, where truman capote himself records conversations and moments he has had with different people! in his other books and short stories that i’ve read, they are definitely semi-autobiographical, but these stories give his readers an incredible view into his life, personality, and thought process. capote was a quick, witty, raw, blunt, and erotic entertainer. some of my favorites in this book are “A Day’s Work”, “Hello, Stranger” (the end is haunting), and “Nocturnal Turnings, or How Siamese Twins Have Sex”, which is simply an interview between him and himself. i recommend!

  30. 4 out of 5

    misa bretschneider

    have only read two novels from capoto, but this one has to be my favorite -- sometimes don't really get the hype of capote -- his stories, like his persona, are highly meticulous, yet flamboyant; lucid, yet dubious. doe-eyed, i believed the implication of the title of the main novella, but after having delighted in the story, googled, and found it was most probably untrue. boo, but still a good tale. of the other clips, both fiction and nonfiction, my picks would be: hello, stranger; music for c have only read two novels from capoto, but this one has to be my favorite -- sometimes don't really get the hype of capote -- his stories, like his persona, are highly meticulous, yet flamboyant; lucid, yet dubious. doe-eyed, i believed the implication of the title of the main novella, but after having delighted in the story, googled, and found it was most probably untrue. boo, but still a good tale. of the other clips, both fiction and nonfiction, my picks would be: hello, stranger; music for chameleons; and hidden gardens -- don't let me commence (!)

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