Other Voices, Other Rooms

By Truman Capote; Published In 1948
Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literature, American
...all his prayers of the past had been simple concrete requests: God, give me a bicycle, a knife with seven blades, a box of oil-paints. Only how, how, could you say something so indefinite, so meaningless as this: God, let me be loved.

And in this moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.

Any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.

Are the dead as lonesome as the living?

Aside from all else, there is some truth in that; clocks indeed must have their sacrifice: what is death but an offering to time and eternity?

Before birth; yes, what time was it then? A time like now, and when they were dead, it would be still like now: these trees, that sky, this earth, those acorn seeds, sun and wind, all the same, while they, with dust-turned hearts, change only.

But, my dear, so few things are fulfilled: what are most lives but a series of incompleted episodes? 'We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task...' It is wanting to know the end that makes us believe in God, or witchcraft, believe, at least, in something.

But there was no prayer in Joel’s mind; rather, nothing a net of words could capture, for, with one exception, all his prayers of the past had been simple concrete requests: God, give me a bicycle, a knife with seven blades, a box of oil-paints. Only how, how, could you say something so indefinite, so meaningless as this: God, let me be loved.

But we are alone, darling child, terribly, isolated each from the other; so fierce is the world's ridicule we cannot speak or show our tenderness; for us, death is stronger than life, it pulls like a wind through the dark, all our cries burlesqued in joyless laughter; and with the garbage of loneliness stuffed down us until our guts burst bleeding green, we go screaming round the world, dying in our rented rooms, nightmare hotels, eternal homes of the transient heart.

[C]locks indeed must have thier sacrifice: what is death but an offering to time and eternity?

(First lines) Now a traveler must make his way to Noon City by the best means he can, for there are no trains or buses headed in that direction, though six days a week a truck from the Chuberry Turpentine Company collects mail and supplies at the nextdoor town of Paradise Chapel; occasionally a person bound for Noon City can catch a ride with the driver of the truck, Sam Ratcliffe. It's a rough trip no matter how you come, for these washboard roads will loosen up even brandnew cars pretty fast, and hitchhikers always find the going bad. Also, this is lonesome country, and here in the sunken marshes where tiger lilies bloom the size of a man's head there are luminous green logs that shine under the dark water like drowned corpses. Often the only movement on the landscape is a broken spiral of smoke from a sorry-looking farmhouse on the horizon, or a wing-stiffened bird, silent and arrow-eyed, circling endlessly over the bleak deserted pinewoods.

[F]or us, death is stronger than life, it pulls like a wind through the dark, all our cries burlesqued in joyless laugther; and with the garbage of liveliness stuffed down us untill our guts burst bleeding green, we go screaming round the world, dying, in our rented rooms, nightmare hotels, eternal homes of the transient heart.

Have you never heard what the wise man say : all of the future exists in the past.

How unnecessary," said Amy. "The child's morbid enough."

"All children are morbid: it's their one saving grace," said Randolph, and went right ahead.

I tell you, my dear, Narcissus was no egoist… he was merely another of us who, in our unshatterable isolation, recognized, on seeing his reflection, the one beautiful comrade, the only inseparable love… poor Narcissus, possibly the only human who was ever honest on this point.

Let me begin by telling you that I was in love. An ordinary statement, to be sure, but not an ordinary fact, for so few of us learn that love is tenderness, and tenderness is not, as a fair proportian suspect, pity; and still fewer know that happiness in love is not the absolute focusing of all emotion in another: one has always to love a good many things which the beloved must come only to symbolize; the true beloveds of this world are in their lovers's eyes lilacs opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child's Sunday, lost voices, one's favourite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory.

...Narcissus was so egotist...he was merely another of us who, in our unshatterable isolation, recognized, on seeing his reflection, the beautiful comrade, the only inseparatable love...poor Narcissus, possibly the only human who was ever honest on this point.

Randolph," he said, "do you know something? I'm very happy." To which his friend made no reply. The reason for this happiness seemed to be simply that he did not feel unhappy; rather, he knew all through him a kind of balance. There was little for him to cope with.

Randolph," he said, "were you ever as young as me?" And Randolph said: "I was never so old.

Shoot, boy, the country's just fulla folks what knows everything, and don't understand nothing, just fullofem.

Sometimes on flat boring afternoons, he'd squatted on the curb of St. Deval Street and daydreamed silent pearly snowclouds into sifting coldly through the boughs of the dry, dirty trees. Snow falling in August and silvering the glassy pavement, the ghostly flakes icing his hair, coating rooftops, changing the grimy old neighborhood into a hushed frozen white wasteland uninhabited except for himself and a menagerie of wonder-beasts: albino antelopes, and ivory-breasted snowbirds; and occasionally there were humans, such fantastic folk as Mr Mystery, the vaudeville hypnotist, and Lucky Rogers, the movie star, and Madame Veronica, who read fortunes in a Vieux Carré tearoom.

The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.

The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.

The feeble-minded, the neurotic, the criminal, perhaps, also, the artist, have unpredictability and perverted innocence in common.

There's lots of things you don't know. All kinds of strange things . . . mostly they happened before we were born: that makes them seem to me so much more real.

They can romanticize us so, mirrors, and that is their secret: what a subtle torture it would be to destroy all the mirrors in the world: where then could we look for reassurance of our identities?

They can romanticize us so, mirrors, and that is their secret: what a subtle torture it would be to destroy all the mirrors in the world: where then could we look for reassurerance of our identities? I tell you, my dear, Narcissus was so egotist...he was merely another of us who, in our unshatterable isolation, recognized, on seeing his reflection, the beautiful comrade, the only inseparatable love...poor Narcissus, possibly the only human who was ever honest on this point.

What we want most is only to be held…and told…that everything (everything is a funny thing, is baby milk and Papa’s eyes, is roaring logs on a cold morning, is hoot-owls and the boy who makes you cry after school, is Mama’s long hair, is being afraid, and twisted faces on the bedroom wall)…everything is going to be all right.

[Y]outh is hardly human: it can't be, for the young never believe they will die...especially would they never believe that death comes, and often, in forms other than the natural one.