In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was the first Truman Capote book that I have read, although I'm sure I read his short stories in my American literature classes in college. I don't know what I expected from this book, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed, similar to when I finally read one of Agatha Christie's novels. At first, I was enjoying the easy way he narrated. It reminded me somewhat of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath at first. It also reminded me of some of the other Southern writers such as Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, and (Capote's childhood friend) Harper Lee. That's good, right? Well, yes, but it changed.
The further I went in the book, the more the reading became almost like a chore. There were far too many sentence fragments - not fragments for effect. I understand using those. I would frequently see something like this, "Under the circumstances." and "Thus the morning." He probably thought it was charming. I didn't. He also frequently used the phrase, "who shall here be known as Mrs. Frederic Johnson." After the second time, it began to annoy me and reminded me of Lemony Snicket (which here means...).
Frequently, I would not know who was narrating. He seemed to use mostly third person, but I would be reading and come to a part with "I" that was NOT part of dialogue, and I wondered, "Who is I?" The retired English teacher in me notices these things.
Last of my criticisms, and what made it a chore in certain places, was Capote would use letters, doctor's diagnoses, statements, court documents, personal recollections in their ENTIRETY which I thought was unnecessary. A good author doesn't want to bore the reader but will pick and choose the necessary parts of these documents and statements to get the point across. Here is one such example of such tediousness: "The murderous potential can become activated, especially if some disequilibrium is already present, when the victim-to-be is unconsciously perceived as a key figure in some past traumatic configuration."
On the flip side, I do like reading about true crime, and this crime was abhorrent. Having southern roots, I also enjoyed the setting. I admire Capote's descriptions of people. Here is one example: "tall people with weight and strength to spare, with wide hands, square and calm and kindly faces—the last being most true of Mrs. Meier..." That is good writing. And Capote doesn't leave the reader with his own opinions but shows both sides of the matter allowing the reader to choose with whom his or her sympathies lie.
Will you enjoy the book? It depends on what style and subject matter appeals to you. I liked and disliked several things about this book, but I'm glad I read it.
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