Book reviews, In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood,
by Truman Capote
Published in 1966

(This year it’s a 50 year book old title, fit for the Back to the Classics 2016 challenge)


Brief snippet from Wikepedia. No spoilers.
In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel by American author Truman Capote, first published in 1966; it details the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.

I did not grow up in the States, so I did nor read (or wasn’t read aloud) this book in my high school years. I was ever intrigued about the book, not so much for the tragedy (that has always its allure), to me, it was the alleged quality of Capote’s writing. I have not watched any of the two movies (Capote and Infamous), featuring this controversial author, and that are based on his writing of this novel.

I chose to listen to an audio version of this book in Spanish. I’m a translation optimist. I don’t get drown in the blues those sing about how much is lost in translations, because much it’s also won when we read in translation. If I can read Antonio Machado in Spanish, for example, of course I’m going to get a ‘feel’, a rush, a rich and layered experience because I know Spanish, but knowing a language it’s not the primordial or primeval component of the relationship between a reader and a text. I have a street philosophy of translation made up of my own ignorance about theories, my dejection of the old school theory that is adamant about poetry not being able to be translated. Good grief! I’m so glad for the many translators that disregard that castrating and platonic view of translation and its impossibility to remain pure, perfect, and to reach that seven heaven, and who roll up their sleeves and just translate. Imperfect translations. How would I know it’s imperfect? And if someone knows, then we are in good hands, because those who find something imperfect know how to improve it. And if they don’t just point to the imperfections but get to work on a new translation, oh the joys! (It’s quite wonderful to have so many versions of Homer, and the Russian authors, and Don Quixote, and to have naughty modern versions of the steeped classics we sometimes love to read in their original, and sometimes… sometimes we just like the more informal version. It’s like coming home from an event, and kicking off your shoes and wear your slippers, or stay bare feet.

I do recognize, though, that reading a Titan in your mother tongue (or for some, tongues), has something that doesn’t transfer. But again, most of us have authors in our language that provide us with that richness and uniqueness. It’s wonderful we can add to those authors, others in translation.

I have not read extensive reviews about this book, I just listened to this interesting one. The young lady in that review says that Capote insisted that his book was true to what happened. Let’s rewind. This book is non fiction. I also read somewhere that this is the second most sold novel in its genre, following Helter Skelter that narrates the Mason’s massacre. Capote researched and immersed himself in the community, and did interview the murderers. Even though it’s non fiction, it has the good traits of a masterful novel. I imagine thoughts and speculation were added, but that doesn’t matter to me as a reader, I’m still grateful. I did not like the topic. I cannot fathom why this? Once the book ended, I’m still thinking about many of the events and the characters. I’m glad I met the Clutters and many others in the book, and I keep thinking what would have been if the two murderers hadn’t cross their paths in life. This book is a difficult read, but I don’t think Capote took advantage of the theme of the book to exploit us, readers, emotionally. Though there’s some language in the book, and some crude events related, I didn’t feel manipulated as a reader. Much on the contrary, I believe the book showed me a very real side of America’s life and her people. It’s not surprise this was made into a mini series, or movies, since Capote’s writing felt very cinematographic to me. The book also created certain intimacy, a bond, between narrator and reader.

In January, at our local book club, we all suggested book titles and voted. I suggested some, and this one was voted on among the 11 titles. Up to now, we’ve read these titles:

MARCH – read
APRIL – read
MAY – read
JUNE – read
My favorite has been The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. We are in the third of the Flavia de Luce’s series (I believe there’s 9 of them). The rest have been OK books, nothing great. I still love the bookclub because it’s about meeting my fellow reader friends. So far, In Cold Blood has been my favorite title. The hardest book to read because of the topic, but the most outstanding book so far. 

2 thoughts on “In Cold Blood”

  1. I have never read In Cold Blood nor seen any of the film versions — I didn't even know it was non-ficiton, but I love Truman Capote's writing, even though his subject matter is often disturbing. I've only read some of his short stories (Breakfast at Tiffany's, A Christmas Memory, and a couple of others) and it seems to me that every single word is perfect — not a single word could have been made better.

    I'm glad to know his longer works are just as compelling (even in translation!). Don't know when I'll be able to get around to them, though.


  2. I have read Breakfast at Tiffany's and yes, he nails his writing. Something about his precision. In Cold Blood is a great book to listen to. I'd find an audio, if I were you. I loved to have the narrator “whisper” the book into my ear, so to speak. At times, I'll re-listen sections, just to hear his thoughts again.

    Compelling is the perfect adjective for this writer.

    I have that same problem, many books but I don't know when or if I'll get to them. But, 🙂 it is what it is. I love, however, reading my friends' reviews too, ha ha ha.


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