Playboy: For many years, American letters seemed dominated by Southern writers, but, as you have said, "during the last ten years the large percentage of the more talented American writers are urban Jewish intellectuals." How do you feel about this shift in ethnic, geographic and literary emphasis?
Capote: Well, it has brought about the rise of what I call the Jewish Mafia in American letters. This is a clique of New York-oriented writers and critics who control much of the literary scene through the influence of the quarterlies and intellectual magazines. All these publications are Jewish-dominated and this particular coterie employs them to make or break writers by advancing or withholding attention. I don't think there's any conscious, sinister conspiracy on their part--just a determination to see that members of their particular clique rise to the top. Bernard Malamud and Saul Bellow and Philip Roth and Isaac Bashevis Singer and Norman Mailer are all fine writers, but they're not the only writers in the country, as the Jewish literary Mafia would have us believe. I could give you a list of excellent writers, such as John Knowles and Vance Bourjaily and James Purdy and Donald Windham and Reynolds Price and James Leo Herlihy and Calder Willingham and John Hawkes and William Goyen; the odds are you haven't heard of most of them, for the simple reason that the Jewish Mafia has systematically frozen them out of the literary scene.
Now, mind you, I'm not against any particular group adhering to its own literary values and advancing its own favored authors; such cliques have always existed in American letters. I only object when one particular group--and it could just as well be Southern, or Roman Catholic, or Marxist, or vegetarian--gets a strangle hold on American criticism and squeezes out anybody who doesn't conform to its own standards. It's fine to write about specifically Jewish problems, and it often makes valid and exciting literature--but the people who have other messages to convey, other styles and other backgrounds should also be given a chance. Today, because of the predominance of the Jewish Mafia, they're not being given that opportunity. This is something everyone in the literary world knows but never writes about.
Playboy: Aren't you opening yourself up to a charge of anti-Semitism?
Capote: No, because anti-Semitism has nothing to do with it. As I've already indicated, I would be just as opposed to a clique of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant authors and critics exercising exclusive control over American letters and excluding talented Jewish writers. I'm against ghettoization from any source. And let me point out that this Jewish Mafia is based more on a state of mind than on race; gentile writers such as Dwight MacDonald who toe the line are made honorary members, while gifted Jewish writers are read out of the club for nonconformity. Irwin Shaw, for example, an excellent writer of Jewish origin, has been damaged by the Jewish Mafia, which has studiously ignored him, despite the fact that his early short stories are superior to any of the contemporary idols. Almost as many Jewish writers as gentiles have suffered at their hands. The ax falls, ecumenically, on the head of anybody, Jew or gentile, who doesn't share this group's parochial preoccupations. The regrettable aspect of all this is that there is so much room for diversity, plenty of space for everybody, if the Jewish Mafia could only accept that other people exist.