Sunday, February 10, 2013

In Cold Blood

Inspired by listening to an online lecture series about Literary Nonfiction, I began reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  It's an amazing book, with many wonderful moments of reporting and description, and I am most floored by its craft. My favorite part so far begins on page 107 of my hardcover edition. The passage is describing Perry and Dick's flight from their crime.

"The car was parked on a promontory where Perry and Dick had stopped to picnic. It was noon. Dick scanned the view through a pair of binoculars. Mountains. Hawks wheeling in a white sky. A dusty road winding into and out of a white and dusty village. Today was his second day in Mexico, and so far he liked it fine--even the food.....
'Know what I think?" said Perry. 'I think there must be something wrong with us. To do what we did.'
'Did what?"
'Out there.'
Dick dropped the binoculars into a leather case.... He was annoyed. Annoyed as hell. Why the hell couldn't Perry shut up?"

From there, Capote takes a few pages to describe Dick's reaction to the conversation. Dick disputes Perry's story about killing a man with a bike chain earlier in his life.

The next subchapter begins, on page 110:

"Mountains. Hawks wheeling in a white sky.
When Perry asked Dick, "Know what I think?' he knew he was beginning a conversation that would displease Dick.."

Notice the repetition of the description, first disorienting us [haven't we heard this before?], then orienting us to Perry's point of view of the same conversation, through which we find out "There was some truth in the story. Perry had known, under the circumstances stated, a Negro named King. But if the man was dead today it was none of Perry's doing; he'd never raised a hand against him. For all he knew, King might still be lying abed somewhere, fanning himself and sipping beer."

The same conversation from two perspectives, connected elegantly and clearly. It's a masterful work.

No comments: