2012 Book 80: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote (5/24/2012)
Reason for Reading: Murder and Mayhem in May
My Review 4/5 stars
In Cold Blood is a first-of-its-kind true crime book where journalism was written in novel-form. In a small Kansas town in 1959, four members of the Clutter family were brutally slaughtered in their home. The book begins by personifying the members of the Clutter family and laying out the last couple days of their lives. It also brings to life (disturbingly) the two murderers, outlining their histories and motivations. This is a work of genius in real-life characterization. The author clearly had compassion for at least one of the murderers, so much so that he was accused of being "obsessed." I don't find this obsession as shocking as some people, I suppose, because I understand that psychopaths are generally EXTREMELY charming and are able to manipulate people into feeling empathetic towards them. I wonder, though, if Capote knew as much about the diagnostic criteria of psychopaths back then as a good journalist-doing-his-job would have today, would he have portrayed the two men the same way? While reading, I kept saying, "these men are psychopaths, and yet they are portrayed as having (very tiny!) consciences..." If the book were written today, I don't think it would be the same book. Regardless, I think it's a classic that will stay with us forever simply BECAUSE it portrays a world that was perhaps less complex and more innocent than today's.