The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories

The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories - Truman Capote

I am still mystified by Capote's talent. His early novels and stories share a great deal with each other, diminishing their impact, but the ingenuity and wit of the works still shine through.

Colin Fenwick was sent to live with his aunts after the deaths of his parents. Aunt Verena is a shrewd businesswoman who holds the town in a tight financial grip. Her sister Dolly is gentle and looks after the needs of the house, preparing a dropsy cure for sale on the side. Dolly's closest friend is Catherine, a black woman who defends the meek Dolly and claims Native American descent.

The dropsy cure becomes popular enough to be bringing in real money and suddenly Verena wants to interfere. After a clash between the sisters Dolly, Catherine and Colin decide to move out of the house and into a tree-house on the outskirts of town. Verena attempts to use her influence to make them return home, and the rest of the plot happens.

But plot is secondary with Capote, especially in these early works. His language, his curious sympathy with older women and the young boys who hang out in their kitchens, and the humorous and somehow completely believable aura that surrounds the daily life of his story's inhabitants.

'The Grass Harp' has Capote's first story collection, 'A Tree of Night and Other Stories' attached. These stories are more unsettling than funny and owe a great debt to the Freud fascination of the mid-20th century. Only two, "Children on Their Birthdays" and "Shut a Final Door" enter firm, laugh-out-loud, ground. And that is taking into account my significant appreciation for dark humor.