I usually reserve Fridays for movies, but I just finished Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote. Who, by the way, was apparently 5’3 and occasionally wore opera capes. The book follows Joel Knox whose gets sent to live with his father in Mississippi after his mother dies and his absent father suddenly reappears via an imploring letter. Life in the Landing, where his father lives, is not what he expected at all. Starting with his father.
Everything that happens at the Landing has a sort of feverish dream quality, from effeminate cousin Randolph who lives in a dark decadent room waiting for death to Missouri Fever who lives expecting an old lover to return so he can kill her. Not to mention the twins, a magic wielding hermit, an unstable stepmother, and the midget towards the end, to name a few. As with A Rose for Emily, Capote’s first novel falls under the Southern Gothic category which is characterized by the use of the grotesque. And these characters certainly are, all of them have the feel of something misshapen, something not quite right.
The whole place feels like that, actually. The house is sinking, everything is bare and isolated, covered in moss and slightly dirty. Everywhere you look things are falling apart. And it’s in this atmosphere that Joel, not only “comes off age”, but comes out. It’s murky and vague, mainly because it happens in one scene, but it’s there. In the end, these people who weren’t shiny new in the beginning, lose what little light they might’ve had. Instead a sense of acceptance for what they cannot change settles over them. And it’s sad, you can almost see the moss growing over them, making them part of that desolate land.
Having bummed myself out saying that, it’s also worth mentioning that the imagery in this book is out of this world. He paints pictures that are hard to forget – moments where the air is green, and forgotten wheels going over rickety bridges.
“The redheaded girl and her loud gang were gone from sight, and the white afternoon was ripening towards the quiet time of day when the summer sky spills soft color over the drawn land.”
It’s worth a read, if only for images like that. Until next time, readers.