Thursday, May 11, 2006
In Cold Blood
I just finished Truman Capote's non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood. I think it is, perhaps, one of the best works I've ever read. Fiction or non, in school or out. It's punctuated with tersely cogent bits of observation that render an otherwise journalistic narrative a masterpiece.
...one juror, as though poisoned by the numerous spring-fever yawns weighing the air, sat with drugged eyes and jaws so utterly ajar bees could have buzzed in and out.
Pausing, Green gingerly touched a boil on the back of his neck, a mature inflamation that seemed, like its angry wearer, about to burst.
Then, starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of the wind voices in the wind-beat wheat.
This is the story of a murder. No, more than a murder. A vicious rending of not only a family, but a community, a town, and ultimately, Capote himself. David asked me why I had not read this book in one of my English classes. That, I had an answer to, but I cannot fathom why I did not read this book in one of my journalism classes. This is the kind of prose that acts like an emery on the sensibilities of any reader who writes. Words, alternately weapons of assault and instruments of melodramatic manipulation leap off the pages to illustrate plainly Capote's own musings and empiricism.
This must have been journalism one wrote for people who could actually read. This must have been the time and the kind of journalism I saw so gilded in the lectures of my journalism professors that ultimately jettisoned my career as a journalist. I never saw writing like this at the papers or magazines for which I wrote and I never will.
Oh America. I read a great deal these days about the contempt in which you are held by your citizens. I don't worry about this as much as I worry about the language they use to give turgorless voice to their criticism.
The vast majority of what I read seems to have been written by the only passably literate. Angry words that lie flaccidly on a page like potato peelings shouldn't be able to pass for intellegent phrases or even for those with passion. I stand ignorant, against a tide of knowledge that no one has noticed in quite some time.