Without Meaning

“Soon after the suicide of the esteemed Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, whom I knew well, a biography about him was published, and to my dismay, the author quotes him as saying “Oh yes, I think of suicide a great deal. And I know a number of people I’m certain will kill themselves. Truman Capote, for instance.” I couldn’t imagine what had brought him to this conclusion. My visits to Mishima had always been jolly, very cordial. But Mishima was a sensitive, extremely intuitive man, not someone to be taken lightly. But in this matter, I think his intuition failed him; I would never have the courage to do what he did…”

Truman Capote
Nocturnal Turnings, or How Siamese Twins Have Sex


Truman Capote. Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe, 1981


In the late 1970s, Capote was in and out of rehab clinics, and news of his various breakdowns frequently reached the public. In 1978, talk show host Stanley Siegal did an on-air interview with Capote, who, in an extraordinarily intoxicated state, confessed that had been awake for 48 hours and when questioned by Siegal, “What’s going to happen unless you lick this problem of drugs and alcohol?” Capote responded with “The obvious answer is that eventually, I mean, I’ll kill myself … without meaning to”. Capote died in Bel Air, Los Angeles, on August 25, 1984, aged 59 from liver cancer. According to the coroner’s report the cause of death was “liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication.” He died at the home of his old friend Joanne Carson, ex-wife of late-night TV host Johnny Carson, on whose program Capote had been a frequent guest.