Tuesday, 4 November 2008
In Cold Blood
This is a provisional post having read the first forty pages, that is up to the inciting incident. It is reportage. I had the opportunity to compare it to Mary Wesley's Camomile Lawn (bear with me there is a point here!). I picked up this book at 3am to get me back to sleep. It was a mistake since the characters in the TV series flooded through my mind. The book though was disappointingly wooden. The first pages are close packed back story quite undisguised as dialogue or any such thing. Capote also has to communicate a load of background and also uses some chunky paragraphs but in his case punctuated by some showing in dialogue and action. I am stuck how much I dislike being told something in a book.
I will now read on and report back in a day or two.
I will write my impressions of this novel as I work my way through it. Having had the aloof reportage from the prologue, the description becomes more vivid as the moment of the murder approaches. An example is the pain in Perry's knees (p54) Perhaps I begin to see some force within Perry which results in the hideous crime? But the description generally becomes sharper. At around about page 60 a first person narrator becomes prominent. The eye witness accounts add to the gradual build up.
The slow progress is all down to my granddaughter - so no apologies!
The author is showing us two sets of characters: those grouped round the family decimated by the crime, and the criminals. He then paints both groups with the same sympathetic pallet. As readers the temptation is to cry out condemn, but he won't. He seems to offer very little in the way of clues to allow us to make the connection. Equally he doesn't, as yet, let us get close only to be disappointed. Yet I read on.
The style of writing as revealed by the page layout is intriguing. It is what I have previously referred to a reportage but interspersed with remembered speech and in some cases dialogue. This latter has the effect of making it feel that we are being shown rather than told.
I accept it is embarrassing how long I am spending reading this book. My defence is that there is plenty going on at the same time. The advantage is that there is an opportunity to savour after each short burst of reading.
I have just come through the part where Capote gives the texts of an exchange of letters between Perry and his sister plus a critique of the latter's writing offered by Perry's evangelical friend. These documents offer deep insights into Perry's character such that the reader is slowly nudged toward believing that Perry could have murdered. (I am not there yet).
The detective is not shown drink coffee and upturning clues, rather we are shown a view of the effect the investigation is having on his health and his marriage. This is deeply human stuff.
The problem with this is how on earth is the vital clue going to be uncovered. The answer comes in chapter 3 where the only person who can make the connection begins to do so and in a convincing way.
Capote takes his reader through the trial and into the time when execution is awaited. In the TV court room drama the focus is on the verdict, with sub plots, often of loose connection, slotted in to keep attention. Capote sticks closely to Aristotle’s rule that the focus must always be on the Action/idea. We are told about the characters, but all the time the focus is utterly clear. It is a density of writing that perhaps Salman Rushdie used in Midnight Children. It offers the reader a much deeper but also more rounded experience. It knocks on the head the desire on the part of the writer to engage in flights of fancy as the plot wonders hither and thither. Be utterly clear what the point is and stick to it.
A great book