Saturday, June 24, 2006

_In Cold Blood_ by Truman Capote.

After months of being on a wait-list, I was finally able to check out and read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

I'm not sure I can respond to this book objectively, since, like detective mysteries, true crimes are not typically "my thing." But I would recommend this book simply because Truman created a new genre when he wrote it, that of a nonfiction novel. There must have been something that gripped me, though, because I read it within two days and it's about 350 pages long. I'm sure it's the best written, researched, and detailed true crime novel. Truman is a brilliant writer. There's something suspensful about it, even though you know what happens right off. You are drawn into everyone's lives, like you know the people (the victims, the townspeople, etc). Even the murderers are human and not just charictures of evil. We are inside their minds.

Although, I don't have much use for them. Bad childhood blahblahblah. Lots of people have bad childhoods and don't grow up to be cold blooded murderers--and isn't that the rub? That the killers even admit that this family had never done anything to them, that they even seemed like decent people?

Don't read that as an indication of Capote making excuses for them; he doesn't. Capote's bias, if he had one, is invisible. It's not...sensational in any way. It's v. straight forward, here's what happened.

But mostly I came away with the feeling of how...I don't know. I felt depressed. An entire family was murdered for no reason, two children, and these senseless killings happen every day. Every day. I've heard that the two movies about the book kind of ignore the Clutter family (the victims) but Capote presents a vivid picture of them in the book, and it's hard not to picture the girl Nancy baking pies with a friend on the day of her murder and not feel hopeless about the world.

This book would be good to read in a book club, to see what kind of discussions arise. It would be interesting to see how people feel about the killers and about responsibility. Because while Smith actually pulled the trigger, he is, for many people, the more sympathetic of the two, and so many people feel Hickock is actually more responsible for the murders. I'm not saying whether or not I agree with that feeling, but to see how that seemingly crazy kind of reasoning can develop, read the book. ; ) ...okay, I do admit that, even for me, Smith was more sympathetic, but I'm not sorry both of them hanged.

I haven't seen the movie Capote, and I don't have any real desire to. I don't care for Philip Seymour Hoffman, and I think that voice would grate on my nerves fast. The movie is supposed to follow his writing of In Cold Blood, but it's not actually all that accurate. For one thing, Capote became close with Perry Smith, one of the murderers, during his research, and while Capote was present at Hickock's hanging, he couldn't bear to watch Smith's and left the scene before it happened. (This occurrence is not detailed in the book, however. Capote does not make himself present in the book, except for in one instance you know it's him when he refers to a journalist that meets with both Smith and Hickok in their cells.) In the movie, though, he stays for Smith's execution. I don't know how it's played out in the movie, but even with changing that detail, you change Capote's character, because him leaving the scene is actually v. telling. (Now I am to understand that, in the movie, Capote is "broken" after watching Smith's execution and people are led to believe he never wrote again? Well, he did.)

Hmm. I love this novel more after reading it than I did while reading it. I don't think you can truly appreciate it until you set it down and step away.


Nick said...

I love non-fiction and that book has been on my wait list for a while.

The voice wasn't iritating because it was hard to hear in the first place. But I have old man ears.

That movie has a special place in my heart for a very good reason. :D

Stefanie said...

I meant wait list literally, because I had reserved it at the library and tons of people were ahead of me!

Nick said...

Ohhhh... Okay well I can be very slow sometimes. I can imagine since there was a movie on it. As much as people complain about movies on books, it does help book sales.

[.chickadees.on.the.pavemen7] said...

You should really see the movie-- it's amazing. Not many movies capture my attention but this def. did.

It is really about how close Capote got to his subject + how he struggled between wanting to be sincere + wanting to be a celebrity known for his almost sensational writing.

See it!

Stefanie said...

Well, I'll think about it!