“More tears are shed for prayers that are answered than for those that remain unattended.” This thought of Teresa de Ávila deserved to have been printed on the cards of the famous Stork Club in New York, where in the 1940s the whitest swans in the city drank and spread their wings. It was an underground club, but only for those who had nothing to offer to fame and seduction. All the celebrities of the moment passed by and met with the golden girls of the Upper East Side, with famous surnames, among others Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona O’Neill (daughter of the Nobel-winning playwright), the Bouvier, the Astors, all pastured by Truman Capote, who used more than half of his talent just to come up with witty phrases and wicked retorts that amused that flock that congregated around the olive in the Martini.
It was enough for any of them to part their red lips for everything around them to smell of money. What had those winged creatures done to spill so much happiness? Being born into a proper family, one of those that with just a sneeze put all Wall Street on edge. But there was Truman Capote to make sense of his vague existence through the surprising play of words. Of Oona O’Neill he said: “She only has one flaw, she’s perfect.” But at the Stork Club the wits were widely distributed. Someone asked Gore Vidal why he had not greeted little Capote. “I have confused him with a puff”, answered.
After sucking like a bee all the flowers of Taormina and flying over the festivals of Paris, the snow of Saint-Moritz, the white armchairs of the Côte d’Azur, Ischia, Capri, Positano and the murky cushions of Tangier, always surrounded by characters crossed the line, Truman Capote returned to the Stork Club to meet again with his creatures; and they, in those dark couches, in the aperitifs in the Oak Bar of the Plaza, in the yachts or in the jets Private to Jamaica, they told him their secrets, their infidelities, their vices and the times they had tried to cut their veins.
True to his principle that everything literature does is nothing more than gossip, after writing the masterpiece Cold-blooded, with which he founded the new journalism, drowning his talent in alcohol and barbiturates, wanted to add another knot to the noose with which the murderers of Kansas were hanged. Now converted into an old stuffed animal surrounded by pillows, those creatures that he had tried to seduce all his life began to abandon him and to take revenge he set out to write a novel, Answered prayers, in which he was going to sacrifice them. Despite their beauty, swans are very cruel birds and attack violently when their nests are threatened. If it were true that it is written to make you fall in love, to be loved, Capote had failed. Those winged creatures ended up destroying it.
At the Stork Club at that time sometimes a resilient, rich, neurotic, intelligent, snobbish, sarcastic young man, clad in a black Chesterfield coat, would drop by. His name was J. D Salinger and he also tried to seduce those golden girls, while despising them. It drove them crazy, but not all of them. The 15-year-old Oona O’Neill eluded her until she saw that this attractive young man had published his first story in the magazine The Story, as did Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Capote. They began the mutual seduction on the couches of the Stork Club; Oona and Salinger were the kind of boyfriends who were still kissing with their lips closed when World War II fell on them. Salinger enlisted in the army, participated in the Normandy landings and, while iron rained everywhere, he wrote fiery love letters to Oona from the front until one day in a newspaper he was reading a soldier saw the photo with the Full-page news that Oona O’Neill, his innocent girlfriend, that white swan, had married Charles Chaplin, 40 years her senior.
Each in their own way, Capote and Salinger were forced to shed tears over the prayers answered at the Stork Club. Both had the most resounding success, one with Cold-blooded, another with The catcher in the rye, and the two pursued and attacked by those white swans took different paths in their flight. Capote fled through the intricate path of alcohol and drugs until he reached that paradise where the seventh face of the die is glimpsed and Salinger, bombarded by his own success, had to bury himself alive on a Cornish farm, where his anonymity became a legend to the point that reaching him was as difficult a mission as finding a monkey on Mars, as long as the explorer was a journalist, biographer, literary critic or publisher, but not if he was an attractive young fan willing to be passed by arms.
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