In the winter of 1959, Capote appeared on David Susskind’s program, Open End, to talk about writers and writing in general. When The Beat Generation was mentioned, Capote quickly attacked it. “None of these people have anything interesting to say and none of them can write, not even Mr. Kerouac….It isn’t writing at all-it’s typing,” Capote commented.
That response, “It isn’t writing, it’s typing,” stuck with Jack Kerouac until he died in 1969.
I became interested in Jack Kerouac years ago and have read most of his books, as well as several books about the author. I was always curious about that comment and why Capote would say something like that. Recently, I read some research about Truman Capote and think I now have some things figured out.
In the fall of 1958, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the talk of the town. His character, “Holly Golightly” was an instant classic and many women in Capote’s life were claiming to be the person the character was based on. While his book was an instant hit, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road was released in the fall of 1957 and slowly built up a following. Jack Kerouac and some of his friends were becoming known as The Beat Generation of writers, a whole new ‘brotherhood’ of sorts. Kerouac himself was getting a lot of attention for the new style of writing that he created, called ‘spontaneous prose’.
Truman Capote, abandoned by his parents at young age to be raised with his cousins, always wanted attention and love. He decided very early on that he was going to be ‘the most famous writer ever’ and methodically set out to do so. Most of what Capote did was carefully planned and thought out, but one thing that he did not like was someone else getting more attention than him. At the time, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was at its height, Kerouac and the Beats were writers getting attention as well, and taking it away from Capote.
I think Capote made that flip comment to try and dismiss Kerouac’s popularity, and yet he knew at the same time he was famous enough for the quote to be repeated. Capote did not like Kerouac getting all of the attention, yet created a way to get his name in the press two-fold. Now, people were not only talking about Capote, but every time they would talk about Kerouac, the quote ‘It isn’t writing, it’s typing’ would be attached with Capote as critic.
It is, also, interesting to note that this is when Capote began on his mission of creating a new form of writing himself. Later that year, he began working on what became In Cold Blood.
Was Capote just jealous of Kerouac? Jealous of the press his fellow writer and friends were getting? Jealous of Kerouac’s creation of a new writing form, ‘spontaneous prose’?
may add more pieces about Author Feuds if you like this. Let me know what you think. Any feuds you know of and like?