The preface to Music for Chameleons talks about how the author thinks non-fiction is the only way to go and how he decided that the absolute ultimate...moreThe preface to Music for Chameleons talks about how the author thinks non-fiction is the only way to go and how he decided that the absolute ultimate pinnacle of writing would be literary non-fiction with himself as the star of the show. So he's centre-stage in most of the stories and he makes a compelling character. Reading some of the other reviews on here there's a lot of talk about how much of an ass Capote seems. I couldn't help but compare this book with a couple of the non-fiction books I've recently read where the writers weren't as self-assured and their lack of confidence manifested in some real unpleasantness. The only problem with the narrative voice here is a perfunctory, disingenuous self-deprecation that pops up every now and then.
The longest piece in the book is Handcarved Coffins which is presented as true crime and really is a compelling story. Halfway in I think this is amazing, I'm no stranger to true crime so why haven't I heard of this case before? Why haven't I seen an episode of Law & Order based on the case? Then I notice that no-one has tagged this book as non-fiction. Ugh. After some Googling I find out that Handcarved Coffins is probably not based on a real crime and that there is little evidence that any of the other stories are based in reality. I was disappointed but what the hell, I read fiction all the time.
I've read Breakfast at Tiffany's and Other Voices, Other Rooms and enjoyed and appreciated them but neither of them captured my attention like this book did. Really enjoyed this and absolutely burned through it. (less)
I've read a lot of these hardboiled crime books, this wasn't a stand-out fave but I liked the style. I felt as though the author really got into the c...moreI've read a lot of these hardboiled crime books, this wasn't a stand-out fave but I liked the style. I felt as though the author really got into the characters' heads, especially reformed party-girl Ellen and spinster-in-training Marion, although it could be that their relative depth was a relief after lovestruck dimwit Dorothy. The novel was peppered with newspaper items related to the various crimes of the story. They were pretty tongue-in-cheek and served as nice palate-cleansers between the POV changes. I don't know if there's something wrong with me or if it's something about the way the book's written but I was really rooting for the murderer. He worked so hard to marry money I felt like he deserved it. (less)
Typical Edith Wharton tale of someone getting exactly what they want but it being poisoned in some way. In this case a guy amasses enough wealth to na...moreTypical Edith Wharton tale of someone getting exactly what they want but it being poisoned in some way. In this case a guy amasses enough wealth to nab the girl of his dreams, however the way he gets the cash means he is wracked by a guilt with which he cannot come to terms. Ever. It's a depressing read. It's mostly bramble-minded, woe-is-me, hate and blame from the protagonist for almost everyone he knows. While I was reading I thought, this is taking too long. The tale might have suited a short story rather than a novella. Some of Wharton's later work deals with similar themes but is shorter, tighter and more satisfying, for example the stories in Tales of Men and Ghosts. (less)