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Liz Smith

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Journalism As Fiction, Fiction As Journalism: The Capote Dictum

Posted: 11/29/2012 9:32 am

"THE THING is there are people who are writing phony romans a clef about people they never knew or met. Like Jackie Susann. If you are writing about people you actually know, then it's different. But to take Mrs. Onassis or Lee Radziwill or me, like Susann has done, is not playing the game fair. If you know the people and have some basis to make a judgment, it becomes a work of journalism or reportage!"

  • I JUST found again this statement made by Truman Capote back in 1976. It would have worked perfectly into the current examination of Capote that you can find in December's issue of Vanity Fair. I see that I filed it under the headline "Twerked Off!"

    It seems friend Truman believed he was the only one entitled to examine the famous among his important friends. This kind of thinking about what constitutes real "journalism or reportage" would render the works of historians and biographers useless. And a lot of stories of gossip and current goings on, would be useless.

    And, in the end, neither "Mrs. Onassis nor Lee Radziwill" particularly liked being written and talked about by Truman, though he might have amused them at one time or another.

    It seems also that Truman was a little bit jealous of Jackie Susann who had died in 1974 while he was still obsessing about her. She wasn't a particularly good writer but she did pen some staggering bestsellers: Valley of the Dolls... The Love Machine... Once Is Not Enough... and posthumously, Dolores... Yargo.

  • Going into the Fox News building to record my weekly stint on Lips & Ears (philosophies of entertainment) -- I ran into an attractive young blonde. (Most of the women in the Fox building could be described like this!)

    She held the revolving door for me, disengaging my umbrella. So, before I left her, Mary Hunt handed me the book she was pushing. It's title Debt-Proof Your Christmas is something you might enjoy for celebrating the holidays without breaking the bank.

    At least that's what the sub-title says. "Christmas with no debt, less stress, and more joy?" Yes, says the popular founder of the website Debt-Proof Living.

    I think it's too late for me to have that kind of Christmas, but maybe not for you -- if you're one who can think creatively about gifts. And it will only put you in debt to the tune of about $13 for this book from www.revellbooks.com.

  • "MARVIN MAKES MUSIC" by the late songwriter Marvin Hamlisch (and with Jim Madsen's art work) will make a fine present for any aspiring youngster who leans in the direction of music.

    The young hero of this book is a budding creator who finds performing music written by "some old guys named Ludwig and Wolfgang" -- drives him nuts! It gives him knots in the tummy. (This is surely a book for your child who doesn't want to practice, practice and maybe get to Carnegie Hall!)

    At six, the real Marvin became one of the youngest students ever accepted at the Juilliard School. But your kid needn't be a prodigy like Marvin. The book is the true story of how he listened, learned and became one of the most famous performers in the world.

    Give your little music lover the chance to read about a guy who went on to win three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes. Here's a plus. There's a CD included in this charming book -- it's the truelife Marvin Hamlisch playing "The Music in My Mind" created with Rupert Holmes. This one's a Dial gem.

    And you will make Marvin's wife, Terre, so happy if you remember her husband by buying his book!

  • I have always had so much respect for Valentina Fratti who was formerly the head of the Miranda Theater. he is the goddaughter of the late Katharine Hepburn and her father is the Italian contributor-writer to the Broadway hit Nine. Anyway, Valentina is "somebody" herself without recommendation.

    Now she has directed a worthwhile staged reading of award-winning writer Laurel Ollstein's play They Promised Her the Moon at NOLA Studios, 244 West 54th Street, Studio C -- 4 p.m. Dec. 3rd in Manhattan. (You are invited and it's free, but there's limited seating so reserve at nyreadings@aol.com.)

    This play boasts Tony winner John Cullum and Randy Graff, as well as Jenn Colella, Reed Birney and Andrew Samonsky. I mean to tell you, I think they've got a "commercial" winner here.
    It's about a female astronaut.

  • ALL OF the actors who have spent a part of their lives working for the TV series Two and a Half Men, have always praised Angus T. Jones as the youngest member impacted by his "Uncle Charlie," So, we won't bother to go down memory lane and the story of Çharlie Sheen's departure. I just wonder if young Mr. Jones, now 19 and denouncing what the show has become --  as "filth" -- knew  that he would probably give the show anew lease on life by attacking it.  He is quite correct that it has fallen from comedy to simple sluttishness. It also lost out by replacing or ignoring many of its best most unusual characters. 

    But I'm betting it might get a boost from Angus Jones disillusionment with it.  And for those criticizing his taking millions of dollars worth of salary from CBS and Warner all these years... well, his detractors have to be kidding. He started as a kid; he grew into a critic.

  • WE ARE grateful to those who pointed out recently our big typo in writing that President Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving back in "the "1820s" when we were trying to write "1863!" So sorry about that.
 
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