This fascinating fictionalized nonfiction story overall strikes me as either a whole lot of work or a whole lot of invention. Of course, Capote spent...moreThis fascinating fictionalized nonfiction story overall strikes me as either a whole lot of work or a whole lot of invention. Of course, Capote spent years on this story, interviewing everyone involved, reading every scrap of police report or newspaper article, and declared himself the inventor of this new genre--the nonfiction novel. And there are sections of dialogue and omniscient narration that stretch the imagination. Capote removed himself and his imprint from the novel for the most part, referring to himself in the third person as "a journalist" who asked a certain question or two. Capote's examination of the events surrounding the murder of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959 lead us through the day before, from the perspective of the Clutters and the murderers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, to the aftermath, all the while leaving the reader wondering "Why?" Why were the Clutters murdered in their home? The effect is not so much that of suspense, but of a delayed provision of vital information which is revealed at the pace of the investigation--all for $40. After the men are convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, Capote diverges into the death penalty as a whole, and the background and then-current direction of the insanity plea, including a lengthy description of an article in the July 1960 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry entitled "Murder Without Apparent Motive: A Study in Personality Disorganization."
This is perhaps the most chilling part of the dialogue, related in the voice of Perry Smith: "I told him it wasn't long till morning, and how in the morning somebody would find them, and then all of it, me and Dick and all, would seem like something they dreamed. I wasn't kidding him. I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat."(290)
And another example: "Soldiers don't lose much sleep. They murder, and get medals for doing it. The good people of Kansas want to murder me--and some hangman will be glad to get the work. It's easy to kill--a lot easier than passing a bad check. Just remember: I only knew the Clutters maybe an hour. If I'd really known them, I guess I'd feel different. I don't think I could live with myself. But the way it was, it was like picking off targets in a shotting gallery."(347)
And a death dream of Perry Smith: "There was no applause, none, and yet thousands of patrons packed the cast and gaudy room--a strange audience, mostly men and mostly Negroes. Staring at them, the perspiring entertainer at last understood their silence, for suddenly he knew that these were phantoms, the ghosts of the legally annihilated, the hanged, the gassed, the electrocuted--and in the same instant he realized that he was there to join them, that the gold-painted steps had led to a scaffold, that the platform on which he stood was opening beneath him."(381)
And a few bits of the witty banter interjected throughout the novel: "Well, I'm just a dizzy blonde. I believe you. But I wouldn't tell that tale to any brunette."(209)
"Why carry on like a sackful of sick cats just because Herb Clutter got his throat cut?"(227)
"The trouble with you, Andy, you've got no respect for human life. Including your own."(380) [Dick to Andy, another death row inmate:]
"'Yessir,' the guard said, "they got the death penalty.' Dick said, 'Sure. It's very popular in Kansas. Juries hand it out like they were giving candy to kids.'"(385) (less)
I would have given this two stars but for the fact it's set in San Francisco, and local settings always peak my interest. I would put this book firmly...moreI would have given this two stars but for the fact it's set in San Francisco, and local settings always peak my interest. I would put this book firmly into the category of "beach reading" but probably won't complete reading the rest of the series. The chronology is needlessly out of order, which attempts to increase the suspense with foreshadowing. However, the payoff for this artificial suspense is a complete letdown, and the out-of-order trick just makes the book even less compelling.(less)
Mediocre. Not so bad that I didn't finish it, though. Written by the wife of a British diplomat about the post-colonial Indian diplomat scene in Delhi...moreMediocre. Not so bad that I didn't finish it, though. Written by the wife of a British diplomat about the post-colonial Indian diplomat scene in Delhi and Tibet, weaving in a barely compelling mystery plot.(less)
The Grace children (Jared, Simon, and Mallory) find a book in their great-aunt's house which explains the strange happenings around them as the work o...moreThe Grace children (Jared, Simon, and Mallory) find a book in their great-aunt's house which explains the strange happenings around them as the work of the fairy world. Lots of Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter-type adventures ensue. It was good for listening while I was driving, since it kept me interested, but didn't take very much of my attention to keep track of the plot.(less)
I read this after an interview on Fresh Air with Richard Price, talking about how The Wire was inspired by Clockers. I dog-eared my favorite passages,...moreI read this after an interview on Fresh Air with Richard Price, talking about how The Wire was inspired by Clockers. I dog-eared my favorite passages, but then I returned the book to the library before remembering to copy them down. Thanks to the magic of Google Books, I searched the scanned version of the book for some of the words I remembered, and voila!
"Saturday was a sweet and sunny day, the kind that made people think about getting it together once and for all — health, kids, jobs, personal appearance, doing things right this time. Mothers stood around smoking and laughing, their kids shouting and running as if their hair was on fire. The shards of bottle glass that studded the chained-in grass island behind the benches caught the sun and turned an eyesore into a field of diamonds." -p. 188
"The walls of the waiting room were hung with black-and-white cautionary posters, encircling Strike with admonitions, the subjects ranging from AIDS to pregnancy to crack to alcohol, each one a little masterpiece of dread." -p. 403(less)
I saw this book on the new books shelf at Manoa Public Library and picked it up with a quickening of breath. A new vampire book! Part of a series! May...moreI saw this book on the new books shelf at Manoa Public Library and picked it up with a quickening of breath. A new vampire book! Part of a series! Maybe more vampire books to read! Although I enjoyed reading this story of a mild mystery solved with the assistance of a dead woman communicating through the aid of her personal journal, it left me wanting more. More vampires, more mystery, more blood, more violence. Alas, this is not that type of book. Aunt Dimity is a proper Englishwoman, and, although she is dead, the plot and most characters of the book don't stray too far from this stereotype. And not nearly enough vampires (not any, actually, but I didn't want to ruin it for you!) Basically a modern novel of manners for young readers with plenty of personal interactions solved by the last page.(less)
Smilla is a relentless, caustic, cold character, purposefully maintaining her separateness as a displaced Greenlander in Denmark. Throughout the story...moreSmilla is a relentless, caustic, cold character, purposefully maintaining her separateness as a displaced Greenlander in Denmark. Throughout the story, she views others, particularly Tørk, and judges them to be cold and unfeeling. We can only see in others what we have inside ourselves. Smilla's expertise on ice and snow are interspersed throughout the novel, adding a scientific aspect to the suspense, detection, double-crossing, love story, and "other" narratives woven through the story. And Smilla kicks ass. All by herself. No man is an island, and Smilla requires the assistance of many other characters to propel herself through her single-minded investigation into the death of a neighbor boy, but she is almost always alone. The fight scene descriptions are disconnected, without any emotion or reason to them, similar to the posed sex scenes from My Own Private Idaho. Smilla performs with a heedless desperation that comes only with having nothing to lose.
Some tastes: "And it gets colder, and I'm happy because I know that now the frost has gained momentum; now the ice will stay, now the crystals have formed bridges and enclosed the salt water in pockets that have a structure like the veins of a tree through which the liquid slowly seeps; not many who look over toward Holmen think about this, but it's one reason for believing that ice and life are related in many ways."(7) "There are those who head south this time of year. South to the heat. Personally, I've never been farther than Køge, thirty miles south of Copenhagen. And don't plan to go either, until the nuclear winter has cooled down the continent."(13) "It's always interesting to leave Europeans in silence. For them it's a vacuum in which the tension grows and converges toward the intolerable."(21) "Juliane Christiansen...is a strong endorsement for the curative powers of alcohol. When she's sober, she is stiff, silent and inhibited. When she's drunk, she is lively and happy as a clam."(24) "Reading snow is like listening to music. To describe what you've read is like explaining music in writing."(43) "When the women need to pee, they have to light a Primus stove under a blanket in order to pull down their pants without getting frostbite instantly."(43) "The knives in my apartment are only sharp enough to open envelopes with...Otherwise, on bad days, it might easily occur to me that I could always go stand in the bathroom in front of the mirror and slit my throat. On such occasions it's nice to have the added security of needing to go downstairs and borrow a decent knife from a neighbor."(54) "People hold their lives together by means of the clock. If you make a slight change, something interesting nearly always happens."(55) "The raspberry tart has a bottom layer of almond custard. It tastes of fruit, burnt almonds, and heavy cream. Combined with the surroundings, it is for me the quintessence of the middle and upper classes in Western civilization. The union if exquisitely sophisticated crowning achievements and a nervous, senselessly extravagant consumption."(159) "Any race of people that allows itself to be graded on a scale designed by European science will appear to be a culture of higher primates. Any grading system is meaningless. Every attempt to compare cultures with the intention of determining which is the most developed will never be anything other than one more bullshit projection of Western culture's hatred of its own shadows."(193) "If you have to wait for a long time, you have to seize hold of the waiting or it will become destructive. If you let things slide, your consciousness will waiver, awakening fear and restlessness; depression strikes, and you're pulled down. To keep up my spirits I ask myself: What is a human being? Who am I? Am I my name?"(300) "As a child I sometimes dreamed that everybody was dead and had left me behind with the euphoric freedom of choice in an abandoned adult world. I've always thought of it as a pleasant dream. At this moment, on this square, I realize that it has always been a nightmare."(374) (less)
I just love how twisted stories can get when they're not written by American authors. It simply takes my breath away sometimes, these plot lines that...moreI just love how twisted stories can get when they're not written by American authors. It simply takes my breath away sometimes, these plot lines that I never see come from home-grown novels. This tale of corruption, family deception, white-collar gangster and investigative journalism kept me interested all the way to the abrupt end. And the Swedish names were fun to hear, too.(less)
Everyone wants to get their hands on a solid gold chess set, the source of foiled family dreams and multiple family feud lawsuits. An ex-cop turned pr...moreEveryone wants to get their hands on a solid gold chess set, the source of foiled family dreams and multiple family feud lawsuits. An ex-cop turned private dick uses blackmail leverage to enlist the assistance of a career thief and his cronies, and many bumbling bungles ensue. I was slow to warm to this heist novel, and only managed to achieve a lukewarm reaction. But it was entertaining enough in its way, and served its purpose on my flight. It seemed to be written with visual interpretation in mind, sort of script-ey.
A taste: "If you only need a car for a few hours, there's nothing better...than to go to the parking garage under one of the big Manhattan office buildings, where they have sections set aside for employees of the various businesses upstairs, so the car you choose will not be missed before five p.m., by which time you've returned it."(35)
"May got home from her job at the Safeway with the daily sack of groceries she felt was a perk her employers would have given her if they'd thought of it."(62)
"They stopped for a red light among the tourists, many of whom appeared to have been inflated beyond manufacturer's specifications."(134)
"'You know, I read one time, if you're stuck with a decision you gotta make, there's rules.' 'Oh, yeah?' 'Yeah. Depending on circumstances, you pick the most active, the earliest in time, or the one on the left.'"(242)(less)
A quick little delight of intrigue and family power struggles, which makes research look exciting in a CSI sort of way. The phrases are lovely, the ob...moreA quick little delight of intrigue and family power struggles, which makes research look exciting in a CSI sort of way. The phrases are lovely, the observations heavy. I picked it up off the new books shelf at the library for the title and cover photo. Lemurs fascinate me, and they lend their name to the title of this book and the character whose murder provides the meat of the plot.
My favorite aspect was the vocabulary, so I compiled a list of my favorite words from the novel:
I also enjoyed these bits: "The fine rain drifted down absentmindedly, like ectoplasm. The trouble with smoking was that the desire to smoke was so much greater than the satisfaction afforded by actually smoking. Sometimes when he had a cigarette going he would forget and reach for the pack and start to light another. Maybe that was the thing to do, smoke six at a time, three in the gaps between the fingers of each hand, achieve a Gatling-gun effect."(11)
"His memories of those days were all hazed over happily, as if he were looking back through a pane of glass that had been breathed on by someone who was laughing."(47)(less)
Fun fun fun! It's like reading a graphic novel of Magnum P.I. or Hawaii 5-0, except with some actual Hawaiian characters. This comic has it all: night...moreFun fun fun! It's like reading a graphic novel of Magnum P.I. or Hawaii 5-0, except with some actual Hawaiian characters. This comic has it all: night marchers, kahunas, voodoo, back-room dealings with Japanese drug kingpins, and zombies! I look forward to reading volume 2.(less)
Hardboiled Scottish alcoholic detective novel. My coworker gave it to me for some brain candy escape and it hit the spot. I'm looking forward to readi...moreHardboiled Scottish alcoholic detective novel. My coworker gave it to me for some brain candy escape and it hit the spot. I'm looking forward to reading more from this series.(less)
Detective Harry Hole is everything I could want from a Norwegian detective in Oslo, and more! Alcoholic, clever hunches that are right on track, obses...moreDetective Harry Hole is everything I could want from a Norwegian detective in Oslo, and more! Alcoholic, clever hunches that are right on track, obsessed with a past case that he can't let rest, and he doesn't play by the rules! I wish all of the series was available in English, but I'll make do. And just when you think the mysterious murders with star-shaped diamonds are all wrapped up in a pretty bow, everything changes!
Here are my favorite parts: "Harry had felt the gnawing ache for alcohol from the moment he woke up that morning. First as an instinctive physical craving, then as a panic-stricken fear because he had put a distance between himself and his medicine by not taking his hip flask or any money with him to work. Now the ache was entering a new phase in which it was both a wholly physical pain and a feeling of blank terror that he would be torn to pieces. The enemy below was pulling and tugging at the chains, the dogs were snarling up at him from the pit, somewhere in his stomach beneath his heart." (127)
"Aune had once asked him why he thought he drank. Harry had answered without hesitation: 'Because I'm thirsty.' ... For an alcoholic, life consisted of being drunk and the intervals between being drunk." (221)(less)
It turns out I'm reading this series backwards, because of the availability from the library. Whoops!
So halfway through this one, the case was solved,...moreIt turns out I'm reading this series backwards, because of the availability from the library. Whoops!
So halfway through this one, the case was solved, all wrapped up. And I thought to myself, 'okay, what can the remaining 200 pages possibly be about?' Well, I was in for a wild ride, I'll tell you! Nothing was at it seemed.
Here's a quote: "To recognize a gypsy you have to know he was born with a low-caste mark on his forehead. We have been persecuted by every single regime in Europe. There is no difference between fascists, communists and democrats; the fascists were just a little more efficient. Gypsies made no particular fuss about the Holocaust because the difference from the persecution we were used to was not that great." (225)(less)