Iâ€™m not entirely sure what to think of this book. The author, Truman Capote, supposedly set out to create a new genre of books called â€œliterary journalismâ€ by combining factual research and reporting with artistic presentation. In a way, it makes the book about the senseless murder of a Kansas family a lot more uncomfortable to read, because you assume that everything really did happen and that the characters werenâ€™t really characters at all, but real people. And if it really happened to them it could really happen to you. (This kind of fear is, in fact, one of the recurring themes of the book.)
But as an artistic piece the book seems pretty long, plodding, and repetitive. I was pretty ready for it to be over long before it was, and several parts that described the two murderersâ€™ escapades just seemed to go on and on. But at the same time, I do appreciate the obvious artistry that went into creating this, and the way that Capote juxtaposes images and provides depth to the characters raises the book above —way above— the status of simple pulp mystery or suspense novels. In the bookâ€™s opening sequences, for example, the author flips back and forth between the victims, the all American Clutter family, to the murderers. The result is a kind of montage of competing themes â€“the idealistic against the warpedâ€” that resonates with a lot of people disillusioned with the American dream.
By the end of the book we also come a lot closer to understanding the two killers, if not condoning or forgiving them. The interplay between the two was interesting to watch for the most part, and Capote thankfully didnâ€™t feel the need to spell everything out for us. Instead, he just showed what was going on and let us figure it out for ourselves. Itâ€™s good stuff, even if he does repeat himself and drone a bit on the occasional tangent.