Imperial Hotel

First five day work week of the year, but fortunately there’s yet another three day weekend looming. Huzzah!

One can never go wrong with a three day weekend, I find. And then I have another five day work week, and then I am on VACATION for a week. Lovely! But I have much spice to mine; so much spice to mine it’s not even funny. Heavy heaving sigh.

Isn’t that always the way? And then it’s Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday is late this year–February 28th–which means the weather should be gorgeous for it. That’s something, at any rate.

Today’s short story is by Truman Capote, and is from his collection The Grass Harp and Other Stories. It’s called “Shut a Final Door.”

“Walter, listen to me: if everyone dislikes you, works against you, don’t believe they do so arbitrarily; you create those situations for yourself.

Anna had said that, and though his healthier side told him she intended nothing malicious (if Anna was not a friend than who was?), he’d despised her for it, had gone around telling everybody how much he despised Anna, what a bitch she was. That woman! he said, don’t trust that Anna. This plain-spoken act of hers–nothing but a cover-up for all her repressed hostility; terrible liar, too, can’t believe a word she says: dangerous, my God! And naturally, all he said went back to Anna, so that when he called about a play-opening they’d planned on attending together she told him. “Sorry, Walter, I can’t afford you any longer. I understand you very well, and I have a certain amount of sympathy. It’s very compulsive, your malice, and you aren’t too much to blame, but I don’t want to ever see you again because I’m not so well myself that I can afford it.” But why? And what had he done? Well, sure, he’d gossiped about her, but it wasn’t as though he meant it, and after all, as he said to Jimmy Bergman (now there was a two-face if there ever was one), what was the use of having friends if you couldn’t discuss them objectively?

He said you said they said we said round and round. Round and round, like the paddle-bladed ceiling fan wheeling above; turning and turning, stirring stale air effectively, it made a watch-tick sound, counted seconds in the silence. Walter inched into a cooler part of the bed and closed his eyes against the dark little room. At seven that evening he’d arrived in New Orleans, at seven-thirty he’d registered in this hotel, an anonymous, side-street place. It was August, and it was as though bonfires burned in the red night sky, and the unnatural Southern landscape, observed so assiduously from the train, and which, trying to sublimate all else, he retraced in memory, intensified a feeling of traveling to the end, the falling off.

In Cold Blood is one of my favorite books, even as it straddles the line between non-fiction (true crime) and fiction, but it is incredibly well-written, and every few years I take it down and reread, as I am wont to do with many books that I have loved over the years. When I was growing up, I wasn’t really quite sure why Truman Capote was a celebrity; I knew him from his many (bitchy) appearances on talk shows, and he occasionally made cameo appearances in films (Murder by Death comes to mind). I think I was vaguely aware he was a writer; but I didn’t read any of his work until I was much older and he was long dead. I loved his debut novel, Other Voices Other Rooms, and of course, In Cold Blood is exceptional. (And the difference between the written Breakfast at Tiffany’s and what it to the screen is astonishing; the story is a dark little tale about a call girl and the gay guy who lives in her building and befriends her–not quite the same as the movie.) I’ve not read a lot of Capote’s short fiction, but “Shut a Final Door” actually won the O. Henry Award when he was twenty-four.

“Shut a Final Door” is very finely written; Capote knew how to use words and to create a rhythm in his work with his sentence structure and paragraph construction. But this story is an example of why I have this problem with writing short stories; why I have it stuck in my head that they are something I cannot do. “Shut a Final Door,” while a fun, well-written story and a lot of fun to read, isn’t really a story; it’s a character sketch, basically painting the picture of Walter and his toxic personality, and how he ends up in this hotel room in New Orleans: all the failed friendships, relationships, and jobs–all of which failed because of who Walter is and the kind of person he is. I’ve known Walters before; worked with my fair share, be friends (for a while) with some, and even dated some (briefly). Walter, and others like him, sows the seeds of their own destruction; no matter how much they like a situation they are in, whatever it may be–they always end up destroying it for themselves, and taking no responsibility for the failure on their own. This lack of self-awareness makes for a fascinating study in character, but there is no resolution to this story–it doesn’t follow the classic arc of beginning, middle and end: there is simply a beginning, a flashback to how Walter wound up here, and then…it just ends with Walter wondering why this always happens.

It’s a character study, not a short story…no matter how beautifully it’s written. The beauty of the writing, and the truth of Walter’s character that is revealed in the story, is quite perfect; I can see why it won an award, but yet…it’s not a story.

And one of the great ironies of this story is that it mirrored Capote’s own life, in the end. His final novel, which was never finished, was excerpted in a magazine, and all of his society lady friends were horrified….because the characters were all based on them, the gossip was barely concealed, and they felt betrayed–and they turned their backs on him….and he never understood why. He died not understanding.

Which makes the story all the more compelling, no?

Today’s hunk is what came up when I google image searched for hot New Orleans shirtless guys; a dancer at Oz.

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