The 9 Best Books About Truman Capote and The Swans to Read After Watching Feud

The 9 Best Books About Truman Capote and The Swans to Read After Watching Feud

Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, an eight-episode limited series from Ryan Murphy and directed by Gus Van Sant, is inspired by Truman Capote’s real-life friendships with the crème de la crème of New York society in the 1950s and 1960s: “Babe” Paley (Naomi Watts), Slim Keith (Diane Lane), C.Z. Guest (Chloë Sevigny) and Jackie Kennedy’s sister Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart). Capote nicknamed these women “the swans” and the show follows how Capote went from being a great confidante to the writer’s very own swan dive, when he’s ostracized for publishing the gossip he learns.

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For those tuning in and interested in reading more about the true story that inspired Capote vs. The Swans, below we’ve compiled a list of books by and about Capote and the socialites.

What to read about Truman Capote

Capote: A Biography

The 2005 movie Capote starring Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman is based on this 1988 biography of the writer by former TIME entertainment writer Gerald Clarke, who spent hundreds of hours interviewing Capote. The book tracks Capote’s rise as a teen alliteration sensation to the final years of his life marred by drug abuse and alcoholism. “It was clear that he wanted to die for a long time,” Clarke said when the book came out.

Buy Now: Capote: A Biography on Bookshop | Amazon

Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career

As the title suggests, author George Plimpton crafted his 1997 biography of Capote based on interviews with Capote’s exes, enemies, colleagues, and acquaintances. Among those featured are Lee Radziwill, Lauren Bacall, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, and Kurt Vonnegut. The book inspired the 2006 movie Infamous—which depicts Capote socializing with Babe Paley and Slim Keith—plus there is also a documentary called The Capote Tapes, featuring recordings of Plimpton’s interviews for the book.

Buy Now: Truman Capote on Bookshop | Amazon

Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote

Capote biographer Clarke edited this 2004 book of Capote’s personal letters so fans of Feud can see Capote’s 1960s in his own words. Because Capote never wrote an autobiography, these letters are the closest thing to one. Note the various terms of endearment he used for men and women, like “lover lamb” and “Blessed plum.”

Buy Now: Too Brief a Treat on Bookshop | Amazon

What to read about Capote’s “swans”

Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era

Feud is largely based on this 2021 book, all about how Capote befriended socialites like Lee Radziwill, Barbara “Babe” Paley, Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest during a period of writer’s block in the 1960s. Their secrets and love affairs became material for his novel Answered Prayers, excerpted in Esquire in the 1970s, and Capote was subsequently banished from the society ladies’ orbit.

Buy Now: Capote’s Women on Bookshop | Amazon

Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill

Those who want to read more about Jackie Kennedy’s sister Lee Radziwill, featured in Feud, can check out biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli’s 2018 book profiling the socialite, her sister Jackie Kennedy and her mother Janet Lee Auchincloss. The book shows how jealous Radziwill was of her sister Jackie’s fame, and traces her life through her three marriages, as her mother Janet urged her daughters to marry the wealthiest men they could find.

Buy Now: Jackie, Janet & Lee on Bookshop | Amazon

Deliberate Cruelty: Truman Capote, the Millionaire’s Wife, and the Murder of the Century

Roseanne Montillo’s 2022 book tracks the dynamic between Capote and Ann Woodward, one of the socialites featured in Feud. The two met in 1956, about a year after she made headlines for shooting her husband—an accident, she claims, because she thought he was a burglar. Montillo says Capote nicknamed her “Mrs. Bang Bang,” and gossiped about her for years, ultimately writing a character based on her in his famous story about “the swans” known as “La Côte Basque 1965.”

Buy Now: Deliberate Cruelty on Bookshop | Amazon

What to read by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The 1958 book is about a call girl named Holly Golightly who lives in an Upper East Side brownstone and befriends a new male neighbor. Whenever she’s sad, she hops in a taxi cab and goes to Tiffany’s. The book was made into an Oscar-winning movie by the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn as Golightly.

Buy Now: Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Bookshop | Amazon

In Cold Blood

Known for perfecting the “nonfiction novel” genre—a book about real people and events told in a narrative style—this 1965 novel focuses on two men who murdered a Kansas family. Capote spent six years writing it, from the murder in 1959 to the hanging of the killers in 1965. But it became controversial because of the way that he befriended the killers in prison and even showed them a manuscript of the book.

Buy Now: In Cold Blood on Bookshop | Amazon

Answered Prayers/”La Côte Basque

Published in Esquire magazine in 1975, “La Côte Basque” was the first installment of Capote’s planned novel Answered Prayers, and its title is the name of a power lunch spot that New York’s society women frequented, like Lee Radziwill, Gloria Vanderbilt, Babe Paley, and Slim Keith. The women recognized themselves in the text immediately, and Paley was mortified that Capote basically exposed her husband’s infidelity. Capote never finished the novel.

Read Now: Answered Prayers/”La Côte Basque” in Esquire

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