Monday 30 April 2012

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote, 1966
(March 2011)

I started reading this after Jessie Lamb, before realizing I wasn’t quite in the mood and needed something cheerier. Then the film adaptation pops up in 69 as an hilariously self-inflicted cock-block, which I took as a sign not to take too long in getting back to it.

I can see why it would be something of a mood-killer. Especially the first section, detailing the final hours of the Clutter family and their killers’ preparations for the murders. The tension is very difficult to cope with, even more so as you know these are real events. If you’ve not read this before, don’t look online for pictures of the victims and murderers. Believe me, it doesn’t make it any easier.

Once the tension has (sort of) broken, then this is a book which fully deserves its reputation. It also proves my point about not having to like characters in order to find them compelling.

It does though display the ‘wall of text’ symptom common to so many ‘great’ American writers. What is it with the unbroken pages of type? Are paragraph breaks seen as some sort of communist conspiracy? Is this how middle-aged male American writers express their penis envy? Most guys over-compensate by buying an impractical car, but there’s something both very literal and very literary about proving your cock size through paragraphs taking up almost two pages. ‘Go on, my dear, look at how long I can keep it up.’


  1. My first introduction to Capote was on the stage, where his criticism of Kerouac was recounted, "That's not writing, that's typing."

    As for a few of your questions:

    Copote and Kerouac are definitely associated with the left-leaning, so maybe it is (or was) a conspiracy.

    Not going to guess about the middle-aged envy thing though, as I ain't quite there yet...not going to touch it.


    1. Originally I wrote 'pinko communist conspiracy', but then remembered that the closer to the truth it is, the less obvious it becomes that I'm joking...

  2. I was puzzled about the type set or "1 long paragraph per page" thing. Commie? Stimulant addict? Compulsive disorder? I thought it not a great stretch to make a true story seem so real. Most real-life drama's and books do that nowadays.

    1. There's something very macho about it, and I deliberately use that word, because it does come across as trying too hard. Still, it's generally a minor quibble.

      Less so is the fact that we're drowning in 'reality' horseshit now. I don't know if it was more or less common in the 1960s, but this is at least well crafted.

      Big Brother, Hell's Kitchen, [Your Country Here]'s Got Talent. The 'shake the jar and make them fight' school of culture production. Just because it's 'real' doesn't mean it should be lazy.

  3. "I don't know if it was more or less common in the 1960s, but this is at least well crafted."

    Oh it was and that's why it sticks out. I never watch "reality" T.V. besides true crime stories. Some are so fucked up that if they were written about the publisher might assume it goes in the fiction section.