|Buy In Cold Blood|
I'm still very unclear with Capote's motives in writing this book, which I think fascinates me more than the subject itself. Did he simply feel like he needed to tell this story in more detail? Did he feel he had to make a specific commentary about the legal system or capital punishment? Did he want to display a piece of the human condition - or human condition gone wrong? Perhaps the answer is all of these things and perhaps it is none. I would love to hear from others here that have an opinion on the matter.
I think the book describes the legal system from a very Kafka-esque perspective. Tons of red tape, tons of hype and maybe not as much substance - or substance that gets muddled with emotions and beaurocracy. I doubt this was new material at the time, but it really felt like Capote needed to get this topic off his chest.
Capital Punishment is discussed - specifically targetted towards the legal system and jury members. Are those that put men to death in the court room guilty themselves of murder? Is there value on a criminal life due solely to the fact that they're human? Are these rights waived when such a heinous crime is committed?
There are interesting parts about sexual perversion and how it may be linked to people lacking empathy towards other humans or valuing life at all. That said, there were no questions asked about how you classify perversion and that was largely due to a discussion on rape and pedophilia [two subjects generally regarded as black & white] - homosexuality was never breached in this novel. Capote, a homosexual, never discussed this but according to sources listed on Wikipedia, the relationship between Capote and one of the killers (Perry Smith) was brought into question.
I think Capote tries to get you to empathize with the characters - specifically Smith. He comes from a broken background, but is very intelligent and very sensitive. It felt like a glimmer of Lolita and Nabokov's desire to mess with your mind in regards to Humbert Humbert - but didn't go nearly as far. I think the aim was probably to teach the reader that characters in books are unlike characters in real life - they have good qualities and bad and you have to take both together when establishing a viewpoint.
What makes people committ such horrific acts? I'm not sure we know a ton more now than we did 50 years ago, but Capote tries to use pyschology findings to state that these men cannot be painted simply with a broad brush that says 'evil' or 'good' when there are a lot of factors that take into consideration the psychology of the individual. There is no question that what was done is 100% wrong, and in trying to identify the why, Capote is not saying that their actions can be excused. He is simply saying that the reader must make choices to determine where they deem Smith and Hickock to lie on the evil/good continuum.
As a piece of literature, I wasn't that impressed. Capote's language is good, but not strong and I never found myself wanting to write anything down that I read (though I doubt this was the point). That said, I didn't get as much out of this book as I would have liked. I understand that it was a landmark novel in it's time, and I'm not sure the concept (a non-fictional novel) has ever been captured better, but I still found that I longed to finish it and get started on another read. I feel sort of guilty for this - like I'm not honouring the dead as much as I should. Though, I suppose that's fairly indictive how we treat a lot of the dead... and perhaps that's a human mechanism that lets us focus on life.