1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 161: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote


As is the case with most people of my generation, the first time I was exposed to the name Capote was in the film of the same name, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays famed author Truman Capote.  The film followed Capote as he composed his book, In Cold Blood, a book that was based on the murder of four members of the Clutter family.  After having seen the film I made a mental note to pick up the book and did so, but I’ve been putting it off for a while for fearing that it would be a laboriously long read.  What I found instead was a perfectly executed masterpiece.  It is a spellbindingly hypnotic work, a piece of non-fiction that reads as if it were a carefully crafted novel .  Capote engages not simply in the lives of the killers, nor simply  the lives of their victims, but rather engages an entire community.  He builds a mythos around each character, situating them in an equally mythic community.  Capote though does not just simply make one feel sympathetic to the victims of this brutal crime, he pulls empathy out of the reader for the killers as well.  He effortlessly slips into the skin of a brutalized 16-year-old girl, and then into the skin of her killer, and the reader is engaged by both, simultaneously feeling empathy for all affected parties.  We are shaken at the loss of a life that would have been for Nancy Clutter, and deeply disturbed by the life that was for her killer, Perry Smith.  Even the most peripheral characters are filled with depth and feeling, and all while Capote builds suspense, and horror, and compassion without compromising journalistic detachment.  It reads as a novel, but it reality it is a masterpiece in journalism.  Capote is a master story teller that achieves what on the outset must have seemed like an impossibility.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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