Sunday, January 6, 2019

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Felix Mendelssohn's E minor Violin Concerto performed by the legendary Jascha Heifetz.

 
That is the grate in my bathroom.  Yes, Hercule follows me everywhere and sometimes he refuses to leave.  The grate is old and rusty and needs to be removed, but where would my little green T-Rex perch?








In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In 1957, in Holcomb, Kansas, a rancher, Mr. Clutter, his wife, and teenage daughter and son were found by friends in the home hog tied and dead. Each had been shot in the head. Nothing was stolen. Months went by before anyone had an inkling who could have done such a horrible thing and why.

In Cold Blood is Truman Capote's documentary account of this tragedy, from before the Clutters were murdered to when the perpetrators were finally apprehended and brought to justice. This book was a watershed in that it launched the "New Journalism". Non-fiction written as a novel, rather than dry reporting.

I started this book expecting not to like it. I felt that Capote was exploiting a callous crime for the sake of thrusting himself in the lime light through sensationalism, and, indeed, this book did launch his career, even though he had already published many works, in fact most of his best work, prior to this book, which was published serially in The New Yorker in 1965. But In Cold Blood is what made Capote a celebrity.

The book did start slowly, and at first I thought the writing was a bit juvenile. However, the story picked up speed and soon I was completely involved in the lives of the poor family whose lives were cut short, the townsfolk who reeled in the aftermath and finally, the murderers.

The murderers get the most attention, no doubt because the victims were dead and could not be interviewed, so the least is said about them. Truman Capote and Harper Lee spent an extensive amount of time interviewing the criminals, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were in prison by this time and also the detectives and policemen who helped bring them to justice.

In the end I must say this book was written forcefully yet objectively and with an adept understanding of human nature.

Capote does not sugarcoat the two young men or their murder, but he makes them real live human beings. He effectively describes their psychology, allowing the reader to understand how two young men could kill a whole family in cold blood.

It is the first novel in a long time where I keep expecting to pick the book back up and have to remind myself that I finished it. It seems the people, even though they are all (or most of them) gone, they somehow have become a part of my life.

That says something about the power of Truman Capote's writing.



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14 comments:

  1. I read this a very long time ago for a criminal justice class that I was taking.I remember it having an impression on me.Thus, I know what you mean about the power of Capote's writing.I have not read anything else by him, but I should give more of his books a try.

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    1. Hi Brian. I think you would enjoy Capote's books. He was an interesting, maybe tragic, person and I think his writing thus carries a certain poignancy.

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  2. Hercule has such discernment.... staying next to the food dispenser at all times,,, haha... this is not a book i'd ever read... i've heard that Capote is a good writer; i'm willing to take your word for it... i listened to a young Korean girl playing several pieces of Clemente's on yu toob today: quite charming and reminded me why i almost never listen to music any more: i like it too much...

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    1. Hi Mudpuddle. I don't think Capote would be everyone's cup of tea. He's really not a favorite of mine, but he makes me think about things. Like how some people's lives can be tragic.

      I'll have to find that Youtube. I love Clemente.

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  3. I'm with Mudpuddle, I don't think I could read it either due to the content. I'd much rather read your review or Capote's Christmas book. I'm glad you had a different reaction than expected though.

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    1. Hi Cleo. I know what you mean. Sometimes it's better to read what other people have to say about a book than having to wade through it yourself. It certainly reveals the condition of human nature and why people might become sociopathic.

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  4. I felt the same way. The story never, ever goes away. I will never forget that poor family and their smiling faces.

    I don't think I will go near that book again. The story haunts me, and reading your review does not help. No offense to you, of course; it is the nature of the book.

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    1. Hi Ruth. I understand. It is a sad book and not one I'll read again, either.

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  5. When I read this book it have me nightmares.

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    1. I"m sorry to hear that, RamblingMother. It is a disturbing book, no doubt.

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  6. Would I be nitpicking if I argued this is not a novel as you have called it? Capote and Lee are an interesting pair; the fusion of identities and efforts in this book and To Kill a Mockingbird are fascinating.

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  7. Hi R.T. I call it a novel because from what I read this was the first documentary, or non-fiction, account that was a "novelization". I mean that it was written like a novel. And actually, later it was revealed that Capote was not as faithful to facts as he claimed. But ultimately you're right. It's not a novel.

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  8. Sharon wonderful review. I have always heard about this book but never read it. Was there not a movie made some years ago based on this tragedy? Your Hercule is just too cute. Do you loan him out? :)! Hugs

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    1. Hi Debbie, thank you. There is a movie, which I think is what turned Capote into a celebrity and unfortunately turned him into more a Hollywood figure, not to be taken seriously. That is how I viewed him until recently, which makes discovering his writing a nice surprise.

      Hercule would come to you in a heartbeat. He is very social. God bless!

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