Conversations with Capote – Laurence Grobel, 1985
In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences – Truman Capote, 1965
Jonathan played a Capote type in a play this summer (Southern Fried Murder), so I dug up my Conversations with Capote, which I remembered enjoying for its snarkiness (the same way I enjoy Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion). I did read the whole thing but am promptly getting rid of it. Capote comes across as a really miserable man, nasty because he’s unhappy and unhappy because he’s nasty. His huge ego and his vicious put-downs both seem to come from bottomless insecurity–or maybe it’s just because he’s stoned out of his gourd all the time. Sad, sad, sad.
However, I’d never read In Cold Blood, widely considered a masterpiece. Capote certainly writes clearly and well, and I can see that it was a groundbreaking work at the time (it’s been described as “the first non-fiction novel”). But some works of art, important because they were seminal, can be unremarkable divorced from their context, and that’s how In Cold Blood struck me. To its credit, the book doesn’t have the prurience that often taints true crime, and it’s well-structured. But a masterpiece? Where’s the sense of larger context, the transcendence that can imbue a story of this scope? It didn’t make me think or feel as much as the great non-fiction writers of today do in a brief essay. Sorry, Truman!