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Capote’s abandoned novel to be auctioned

‘Summer Crossing’ called a pre-‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’
/ Source: The Associated Press

A manuscript of Truman Capote’s unpublished first novel, which the author abandoned and claimed to have destroyed, has been found in a box of papers and will be auctioned this week at Sotheby’s.

The first draft of “Summer Crossing” — the story of a 17-year-old girl who has been left in New York while her parents spend the summer in Europe — was at the bottom of a box of Capote manuscripts and photos that was consigned by a relative of Capote’s former house sitter.

Capote, who died in 1984, had hired the house sitter to look after his Brooklyn apartment while he was in Switzerland writing his nonfiction novel, “In Cold Blood,” Sotheby’s told The Associated Press Monday.

After the 1966 publication of “In Cold Blood” made him rich, Capote closed the Brooklyn apartment and told the landlord that he was abandoning any possessions there. The house sitter retrieved the box of manuscripts from the sidewalk.

Gerald Clarke, the author of a biography of Capote and editor of “Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote,” said Capote worked on “Summer Crossing” in the 1940s and part of 1950 and then put it aside.

“He didn’t feel it deeply enough and so he stopped working on it,” said Clarke, who was on his way to Sotheby’s Monday to view the manuscript. “He supposedly threw it away.”

Familiar themesJustin Caldwell, Sotheby’s vice president for books and manuscripts, said the novel’s themes will be familiar to readers of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Capote’s novella about the hedonistic Holly Golightly.

“It’s kind of a pre-’Breakfast at Tiffany’s,”’ he said.

Caldwell called the surfacing of “Summer Crossing” “a remarkable literary discovery.”

“It will undoubtedly provide invaluable insights into this major writer’s formative years as work on the novel occupied Capote both before and after his first published novel, ’Other Voices, Other Rooms,’ which made him a cult figure in American letters,” Caldwell said Monday.

Clarke agreed that “any time we discover a new work by a major writer it’s an important event.”

The decision on whether to publish “Summer Crossing” will be made by his literary executor, Alan Schwartz. Schwartz did not immediately return a phone call to his Los Angeles office. However, Clarke said that if Capote himself did not think the work was publishable, his wishes should be respected.

“This may not be something that should be published, because Truman himself did not feel it was worth publishing,” Clarke said. “But it would still be of interest to writers and scholars.”

The manuscript for “Summer Crossing” is contained in four composition notebooks and about 90 loose sheets, all in Capote’s handwriting, Caldwell said. Sotheby’s is estimating that it will sell for $70,000 to $100,000 at the auction house’s sale of fine books and manuscripts on Friday.

The auction also includes manuscripts of other Capote works found in the box, including a draft of “Other Voices, Other Rooms” and two short stories, “The Diamond Guitar” and “The Bargain.”

The manuscript is on public view at Sotheby’s through Wednesday.