In Cold Blood is one of the best books I’ve read. This may or may not tell anything about my reading habits, I can’t really decide one way or the other. I’d say reading books is largely a subjective experience but I’d also say that any person reading this book would have the same subjective experience.
I think there is a two-part explanation for this, 1) In Cold Blood is written pretty flawlessly, (Truman Capote is “the most perfect writer of [Norman Mailer’s] generation, [writing] the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm”), and 2) the book is 100% true.
It blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction. It asks and answers the question, “What is a perfect story?” and/or “How can a perfect story come about?”
I would say this book should be considered “non-fiction fiction.” I would also say that I do not think “fiction” and “non-fiction fiction” should be held up to the same standards as one another after reading this book.
Given the same content and subject matter, I do not think many writers could pull off the same sort of elegance and nonchalance that Capote does, and if so, I’ve got some books to read.
In Cold Blood is a weird one. There’s a weird moment constantly occurring while reading it, like when you read fiction and you have this vision of what the characters look like in your head, maybe they’re not quite real people, only characters or the way people look like in graphic novels (I picture highly detailed illustrated characters when reading fiction, never real people for some reason) that’s strange in that it makes you think of the real people as you’re imagining it. I think reading about history has the same effect, like George Washington seems more like a cartoon character than a real person when you read about him riding a boat across the Delaware; stories, whether real or not, always seem to fictionalize the parties involved.
The first few chapters of this book give you a really distinct picture of what you’re getting yourself into; each chapter is an awesomely self-contained puzzle piece of the bigger story.
The beginning of the book follows the Clutter family around, unbeknownst to them, on the last day of their lives. It switches back and forth between the Clutters and the men who murder them in a way that makes sense of the randomness of their encounter and how of all the people who could have been led to each other, there is a strange perfection to the way they all come together.
I think this book tells a lot about good and evil and how those concepts are pretty much man-made ideas that carry no real significance to anything.
I’d describe a lot of moments in the book as “chilling.” I got “chilly” almost at the end of every chapter, the way everything unfolded and the manner in which Capote follows around all the people throughout the book, knowing all of the details about them and reporting about them objectively.
I’m pretty much kneeing myself in the jaw for never reading more stories and books by Capote but I’m glad I found a new oil well to tap some gold from.
The end of the first chapter:
“By custom, the hunters, if they are not invited guests, are supposed to pay the landowner a fee for letting them pursue their quarry on his premises, but when the Oklahomans offered to hire hunting rights, Mr. Clutter was amused. “I’m not as poor as I look. Go ahead, get all you can,” he said. Then, touching the brim of his cap, he headed for home and the day’s work, unaware that it would be his last.”