Truman Capote died before I was born.
I’m sure I knew he had, because I had looked it up to tell my students last year. Today, for the first time, I typed his name into the Wikipedia website. I never type things I care about into the Wikipedia website. It feels like I’m cheating on the things I love. A literary adulterer taking the shortcuts to learning.
My husband asked me this week what year my favorite writer died. I said I didn’t know. I said maybe he hasn’t. He could be 87. I felt shame where knowledge lacked. Only hope spoke. Wouldn’t it be neat if he hadn’t died? If I had just sat on the steps of what was once his home and he still was? Truman Capote, alive! Arguably the most prolific writer of our time—alive! The man who changed the nonfiction novel with one controversial work, still wearing top-button-unbuttoned shirts under suitcoats and telling buzzed stories at the most party of all parties somewhere in this city. And we could be sharing air. Ahh…
I knew we weren’t. I just hadn’t learned him exhaustively yet. Or that his life had been exhausted.
All his works, I knew. The quirks of his life piqued my interest. I knew he was a lonely boy, that his friend, our literary hero, Harper had probably modeled her To Kill a Mockingbird character after him. The secret labyrinthical details of In Cold Blood, I had memorized. Dick’s deranged childhood, I’d researched. His special relationship with Perry; I’d asked all the questions there were to ask. The murdered Kansas family and those killers, that was the work that drew me to him.
I just didn’t know that there was no more know to know. Not since 1984, the year before I was born.