Thursday, March 19, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 7 (Truman Capote)

In Cold Blood
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Capote, Truman
In Cold Blood

When I taught high school in the East Village, I found myself constantly looking for books I thought would interest the students enough to keep them reading on their own. I thought I had struck gold when I chose In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. I figured a lurid, well-written, true crime story would be sure to captivate my students.

Well, I was wrong.

If you have ever read the book, you know that the writing is crisp, but that the action is muted for about eighty percent of the book. It contains a lot of description, a lot of detailed information about the people involved, as well as about the investigation. My clearest memory of teaching this book involves me coming to class each day and having to listen to my students complain about how bored they were with this book. Even showing Richard Brooks' film version bored them (they hated black and white films). I think I may have eventually given up on the book because I couldn't even get them to read it in class. Alas.

It begins:

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clean air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

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