2016: Books That Rocked Self’s World

  • March 2016 (read in Mendocino & Fort Bragg): The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
  • May 2016 (read in London): Watch Me, by Anjelica Huston
  • June 2016 (read in California, various stops on the central coast): The Girl On the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • August 2016 (read in San Francisco): The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • December 2016 (read in San Francisco): In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

More Names

Self’s second post on this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: NAMES

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Dragon Papa: Grant St., San Francisco

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What Self Read, Summer 2016

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Iconic Chinatown: San Francisco, Fall 2016

Lures You In Just Like a Multi-Chapter Fan Fiction

The murders unfold. P. 237.

Even though self swore — swore — when beginning In Cold Blood, that when she got to an account of the murders, she would stop reading, the more she read, the more complacent she became, the more she became invested in the characters. Especially in the character of the lead detective, Alvin Dewey.

Just when Hickok and Perry have been caught, it’s at that point when (just when self is patting herself on the back for having finished reading In Cold Blood without once flinching), what do you know: we do after all get the blow-by-blow. But by this time, self has already read 236 pages. How can she stop now? She does the only logical thing: she keeps reading.

It would have been less gruesome if told clinically. But unfortunately, that little perv Perry, the short one, the one who likes it whenever Detective Dewey has to light a cigarette and put it between his lips, he feels emotional connection to the victims (even as he destroys them), so he describes their looks of shock etc etc etc.

And. Still. Self. Just. Cannot. Stop. Reading.

Because she is already so fully invested in the story.

She is reminded of fan fiction, how it lures you in, chapter by chapter (Fan fiction is ALL about serialization). You live with the characters a while (In the case of Mejhiren’s stories, for years), you get to know them, you are completely at the mercy of the author.

Just like what’s happening to self now.

Capote. So sly. If the murders had been recounted any earlier than p. 150, self probably could have closed the book without a second thought.

It’s when poor Mr. Clutter offers to write the murderers a check in exchange for his life that they really go ape-shit on him.

There is so much horror in this story. Readers, self is sparing you much anguish. This is your trigger warning. P. 237. SKIP SKIP SKIP

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

IN COLD BLOOD, pp. 232 – 233

It’s the day after Christmas, for heavens sake, George Michael has died, and self is barreling through In Cold Blood.

It’s a great book. The characters — the two murderers and the four detectives whose seven weeks of patient chasing down of all manner of clues finally led to the arrest of Dick Hickok and Perry Smith for the murder of the Clutter family — are like players in a Greek tragedy (The fact that they arrested the right men: what a piece of luck! Seven weeks is not a long period of time, especially since Hickok and Smith had traveled over eight-hundred miles in the twenty-four hours immediately following the murders, and had no personal connection to either the victims or the town of Holcomb, Kansas, where the murders took place).

Self wants very badly to be able to picture these men, and is disappointed by the absence of any photographs. Isn’t this book nonfiction? Wouldn’t the inclusion of photographs have helped the book’s authenticity?

Instead she has to go googling on the web. She finds a New York Times obituary for Alvin Dewey, lead detective of the case. There is no photograph. Self decided not to google the faces of the two murderers.

Dick Hickok struck the detectives as intelligent and attractive (a Ted Bundy type?), well spoken.

His partner, Perry Smith, was so short that when sitting his feet didn’t touch the floor. And his feet were delicate, the size of a child’s. Yet this is the man who Dick Hickok claimed committed all four murders.

The two men are handcuffed but Perry Smith is a chainsmoker so, during the ride to Kansas, when Smith wants a smoke, Detective Alvin Dewey ends up lighting it for him and placing “it between his lips, a task that the detective found ‘repellent,’ for” it seemed “such an intimate action — the kind of thing” Dewey had done “while he was courting his wife.” (p. 233)

The only reason self quotes the passage here is because, a page later, Perry Smith says to Dewey, catching him off guard: “You hate handing me a butt.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

IN COLD BLOOD, p. 150

Self is full speed ahead on this book.

The excerpt below is about Alvin Dewey, lead detective on the Clutter murders.

He’s stepped into a coffee shop and gets heckled:

“I got a houseful of women who won’t go to the bathroom alone.”

Dewey had become accustomed to this brand of abuse; it was a routine part of his existence. He swallowed the second cup of coffee, smiled.

“Hell, I’m not cracking jokes. I mean it. Why don’t you arrest somebody? That’s what you ‘re paid for.”

“Hush your meanness,” said Mrs. Hartman. “We’re all in the same boat. Alvin’s doing as good as he can.”

The ranch hand waited until his quarry had reached the door, then fired a farewell volley: “If you ever run for sheriff again, just forget my vote, because you ain’t gonna get it.”

Self teaches memoir writing. The trickiest part of it is that remembered dialogue is far from accurate.

But, in this case, the “remembered dialogue” is by a third party who wasn’t even there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

IN COLD BLOOD: Bobby Rupp

The boyfriend of Nancy Clutter, Bobby Rupp, became the first suspect.

p. 73:

Bobby walked to the Teacherage, the boarding house where Susan Kidwell, who had discovered the bodies, was staying. Susan was looking out her window when she saw “a wobbly figure headed her way. She went out on the porch to meet him. She said, I wanted so much to tell you. Bobby began to cry.”

Bobby’s younger brother, Larry, had shadowed Bobby all the way to the Teacherage. Now “Larry lingered at the edge of the . . . yard, hunched against a tree. He couldn’t ever remember seeing Bobby cry, and he didn’t want to, so he lowered his eyes.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

IN COLD BLOOD: Discovery

Capote shows us the events leading to the murders, and then the aftermath of the murders, but not the deed itself (which is just fine with self, which is the only reason she has gotten this far).

About the discovery:

  • Two girls enter the house, find Nancy first; the one girl starts screaming, the other insists Nancy only has “a nosebleed.”
  • The first adult to call the police speaks thus: “There is something radically wrong at the Clutter place.” Since this is rural Kansas, in 1959, self is impressed by the use of such an elegant word as radically.
  • The sheriff finds two dead bodies and all he can say is: Where the devil can Herb be? As if Herb ought to present himself willingly, not make them look for him. Or maybe Herb was hiding.
  • A neighbor sees a collie that belonged to the youngest child, Kenyon. The dog stands right in the middle of the lane, scared. Has its tail between its legs. Doesn’t bark or move. It’s the sight of the dog that rouses the neighbor from his state of dazed shock.  As the neighbor puts it: “Seeing the dog made me feel again.” He could “feel the full viciousness of the crime . . .  You had to believe it, because it was true.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

IN COLD BLOOD: Mrs. Clutter’s Bedroom

p. 29:

Mrs. Clutter and her husband slept in separate bedrooms.

  • Mrs. Clutter’s bedroom . . .  was austere; had the bed been made, a visitor might have thought it permanently unoccupied. An oak bed, a walnut bureau, a bedside table — nothing else except lamps, one curtained window, and a picture of Jesus walking on the water. It was as though by keeping this room impersonal, by not importing her intimate belongings but leaving them mingled with those of her husband, she lessened the offense of not taking his quarters. The only used drawer in the bureau contained a jar of Vick’s Vaporub, Kleenex, an electric heating pad, a number of white nightgowns, and white cotton socks. She always wore a pair of these socks to bed, for she was always cold.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

IN COLD BLOOD: Mrs. Clutter

pp. 27 – 28:

Mrs. Clutter is a collector of miniatures. As she explains to a visitor: “Little things really belong to you . . .  They don’t have to be left behind. You can carry them in a shoebox.”

“Carry them where to?”

“Why, wherever you go. You might be gone for a long time.”

In Cold Blood, p. 10

A friend tells the father, Herbert William Clutter:

  • “You’ve got no mercy. I swear, Herb, if you caught a hired man drinking, out he’d go. And you wouldn’t care if his family was starving.”

What happens to Clutter afterward is cruel, but it is also ironic. In light of the above statement.

Self just noticed that the book’s publisher describes it as a “true account.” Somehow, those two words in combination — especially the “account” — make one think of story.

There is subjectivity in the word “account” — it is not definitive. One event can have many different accounts. It’s not exactly objective reporting, there is blurring. There is point of view.

Point of view is necessarily limited. There will be gaps. Not everything will be explained.

Self finds all of this fascinating. It makes her realize how much importance rests on a book’s label. Because that label is the “hook.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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