Sunday, March 11, 2012

Truman and Sook

A Christmas Memory is a short story - a memoir, really - written by Truman Capote, published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1956. Since then it's appeared in various formats. Set in Depression-era rural South, it's one of the best short stories I've ever read, my favorite, an incredible tale of friendship and loss.

Although never named, the story centers on Sook, Capote's elderly and simple-minded relative, and Buddy, the name she used for Truman. In real life, Truman's mother had abandoned him, leaving him with relatives in Monroeville, Alabama. Incidentally, Harper Lee was one of Truman's Monroeville friends; he's Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.

(In a funny way, A Christmas Memory presages A Day's Work, a non-fiction piece he wrote for in the late-seventies for Interview, later collected in Music for Chameleons. In both stories, he and a woman occupying one of society's lower rungs wind up getting high, singing and dancing, having a merry old time until dour authority figures intrude, rain on their parade.)

On Christmas morning, the Sook character asks seven-year-old Buddy, "When you're grown up, will we still be friends?" Buddy tells her, "Always."

Not long after that immortalized Christmas, young Truman was uprooted yet again, sent off to the torture of military schools.

I believe Sook was the person he most loved, his best friend. Their four or five years together were his oasis, a time when a discarded child found an unconditional love from an adult, this 'forever-child.' He'd go on to tremendous literary success, fame and fortune, be the toast of the biggest town, but I don't think he was ever happier than he was with Sook.

Truman Capote died on August 25, 1984, at the Los Angeles home of Joanne Carson. According to her his last words were, "It's me, it's Buddy. I'm cold."