Truman Capote's Answered Prayers
October 29, 1984

When: 1975

What happened: Esquire published "La Côte Basque 1965," Capote's 13,000-word work of fiction about a luncheon in which "Lady Ina Coolbirth" gossips about herself and the creme de la creme of New York society. (It was supposed to be part of Answered Prayers, the novel he was writing.) And create gossip it did. Many of his targets were easily recognizable. He often used real names. The social set was outraged. Many of Capote's closest friends turned against him and blackballed him. Capote, a man who spent weekends with Babe Paley and threw the famous Black and White Ball for publisher Kay Graham, was ruined socially. "It's one thing," wrote Liz Smith in New York Magazine after the Esquire article appeared, "to tell the nastiest story in the world to all your 50 best friends; it's another to see it set down in cold Century Expanded type."

But really, how bad could it be, Liz?: "Society's sacred monsters at the top have been in a state of shock ever since. Never have you heard such gnashing of teeth, such cries for revenge, such shouts of betrayal and screams of outrage.... What did Capote write that so enraged so many? Oh, just everything he ever heard whispered, shouted, or bruited about."

The irony of it all: For the sixteen years before his death at 59 in 1984, he convinced friends, agents, and societey that he was working on Answered Prayers. Except for the four chapters published in Esquire, there was no book.

The book: Well, there was part of a book. Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel was published in 1987.