Great Sentences – Truman Capote

To become better writers, we must understand what is possible. That means reading writing that pulls us up short, raises the hair on our arms, makes our eyes spiral with awe like a clobbered cartoon creature.

Capote photographed by Avedon

Capote photographed by Avedon


This, is Truman Capote on photographer Richard Avedon. He opens his word portrait with a simple statement:

Richard Avedon is a man with gifted eyes.

Then, in the second paragraph, Capote articulates the consequences of this gift in one of the most audacious, rule-breaking, read-it-to-believe-it sentences I’ve ever clapped eyes on. If the opening sentence is a swift, single drumbeat to grab the reader’s attention; this sentence is the orchestra summoned life.

Within the year the novice was established; his work, now regularly appearing in Harper’s Bazaar and Life and Theatre Arts, as well as on the walls of exhibitions, was considerably discussed, praised for its inventive features, its tart insights, the youthful sense of movement and blood-coursing aliveness he could insert in so still an entity as a photograph: simply, no one had seen anything exactly comparable, and so, since he had staying power, was a hard worker, was, to sum it up, seriously gifted, very naturally he evolved to be, during the next decade, the most generously remunerated, by and large successful American photographer of his generation, and the most, as the excessive number of Avedon imitators bears witness, aesthetically influential.

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