Why were they better at non-fiction than fiction? A big part of the reason is that a great novelist needs to have the gift of profound empathy – the ability to create, care profoundly about, and comprehend to the depths of their souls characters radically different from himself. To be a great novelist requires that one be able to stand alone, as it were, at the edge of the party and observe other people patiently and unobtrusively – to look into their eyes and, in doing so, try to see into their souls.
None of these three were up to that; all were too wrapped up in themselves. Yes, they were all formidably gifted. Of the three, Vidal was the most intelligent, widely read, and critically discerning; Capote was the most sensitive to lived experience and the finest prose stylist; Mailer had, well, a certain feisty energy and ardor, an urgent sense of the Zeitgeist, and a terrific knack for figuring out how to place himself in the center of things so that he would have something spectacular to write about.
But none of them was a born novelist – far from it.
Important question: what does it mean that all three of them befriended murderers?
He also notes that the trio wasted enormous time and energy feuding with each other when they could have been writing.
Literary feuds sound vaguely exciting to outsiders. In fact, they are soul sucking, as I learned firsthand.
Anyway, the attraction “the dark side” holds for adolescents/artists is nothing new, but I supposed modern life makes it easier to interact with the object of one’s obsessions.