Thursday, May 27, 2010

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Current book: In Cold Blood
Pages read: 3 - 74

I'm a little confused as to how this counts as a novel, but I guess it's a fictionalized version of a crime. Capote seems to be trying pretty hard to stick to the events as they happened, though. Then again, it's hard to tell whether the statements from the people in the book are actually court transcripts or not, and there are certainly some conversations and accounts of events that are, at the very least, creative nonfiction. The library puts it in the nonfiction section, and I think I would, too, so I'm little unhappy that it's on the novel list. It's hard to criticize nonfiction like literature. You can criticize the syntax and diction and storytelling, but it's pretty difficult to question the author's decisions about plot and character if he hasn't made them up.

Well, anyway, this is the story of a multiple murder in a small town in Kansas called Holcomb. In the first section, we meet the family that's going to be murdered and the murderers, as well as quite a few townspeople. The Cutters, Herb and Bonnie, and their two children, Nancy and Kenyon, are a prosperous farming family whom most people in town like and respect. Herb is a self-made man and a devout Methodist who drinks neither alcohol nor caffeine. His wife Bonnie struggles with depression. Nancy is 16 and very popular, and is currently dating Bobby Rupp, the boy next door. Kenyon, 15, is reserved, but quite intelligent.

Dick and Perry, the murderers, are paroled convicts who live several hundred miles away. They became friends in prison, and Perry proposed the crime to Dick after they were both paroled, saying that murdering the whole Clutter family would be a great way to make a large amount of money. (We don't have any information yet on where that money might come from or what it is that they plan to steal after committing the murders.)

There's a long section of introductions to the family and the killers, and then the plot flashes forward to Nancy's friend, Susan, finding the family dead in the house. The police come, and from the descriptions of what they find, it's clear that the crime was brutal and horrifying. All four of the Clutters are tied up, some gagged as well, and have been shot in the head. In addition, Herb has had his throat cut. (It's quite graphic, actually, and I wasn't really that pleased at having to read about it. There's a reason I don't read true crime; it's usually disturbing and awful.) As far as suspects go, so far Bobby Rupp is the main target of the investigation, though we, of course, know that Perry and Dick are the real killers.

Yeah, it's true crime-y. It keeps you going, to some extent, but I feel like, as is often true in crime books, the author is so proud of his research that he feels like he has to throw in every tiny detail he discovered in the investigation. At some point, Capote tells us that Nancy has a picture of Bobby at the edge of the local lake, but feels compelled to add that that's as far as he'd ever go, seeing as he couldn't swim. Do I care? Not really. You could make an argument that he's trying to be immersive, but I think it could use some editing. Also, I can't help but feel that true crime novels are exercises in voyeurism to no real purpose. Is there really a message that you're getting across by telling me the savage details of a depraved crime? People can be evil? Yeah, I expect I could have figured that out by reading the newspaper.


  1. Yuck. I'd skip this one if I were you. Truman Capote is one of the weirdest (in a bad way) individuals it has ever been my misfortune to see in an interview. In addition this book is a harbinger of the current national obsession with "police procedurals", one of the most offensive genres of program ever offered to the viewing public in my very strongly held opinion.

  2. Haven't read the "novel". The movie"Capote" focused mostly on his writing of the book, though, and was fascinating and not bloody.



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