Thursday, 25 April 2013

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. 

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Sometimes I think about the fact that I say I'm this big lit buff and yet there are some really famous authors that I've never read. Also, sometimes Powell's has a sale and there are books that I think I should read on the sale rack. Sometimes these two things coincide and thus, I recently read Capote's In Cold Blood.

I don't know what I really expected from the book. It's true crime, a genre that I've never really been super into (except for that brief semester in college when I was totally going to join the police ahaha I would be the worst police) but it was such an important piece of American lit that I felt I had to read it. 

The book itself is really good. Although it is technically nonfiction, it reads like a novel, completely seamless and without some of the awkwardness you can get from nonfiction accounts. Capote brings the reader to understand not only the events but the feelings surrounding them, delving into the psyche of whole towns and all the surrounding bystanders. 

You can tell while you're reading, although Capote certainly doesn't lean in any direction particularly, that he has completely done his research and at least felt some compassion for the killers, Perry in particular. After reading the book and looking up some things on my own, apparently he interviewed them several times and was even accused of having a not-strictly-platonic relationship with Perry. You didn't get the sense of that in the book but you could tell that he sympathized with his backstory. When you read it, however, it seems hard not to.

Not to say that you sympathize with the killers because, well, they did kill an entire family. It's just the way Capote tells the entire story that lets the reader see all aspects and make their own judgments. You're never in doubt that Perry and Hicks committed the crime but there is a lot of exploration into how psychology stood at the time, especially in criminal cases which was very interesting.

There has been a bit of backlash that not everything is 100% accurate and that doesn't surprise me. The book reads so smoothly that it does seem likely that a bit may have been fabricated (especially the last scene). However, I think overall the book captures the true nature of the case and represents feelings correctly, if not the exact facts.

You can see why it was such a big hit and is surprisingly easy read for what it is. If you're up for something challenging theme-wise, it's a great read.

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