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Group Read Discussions > July 2018 Group Read -- Spoiler thread for In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

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message 1: by Nancy, Co-Moderator (new)

Nancy Oakes (quinnsmom) | 9320 comments Mod
Spoilers for In Cold Blood go here.

message 2: by Patty (new)

Patty | 3077 comments In Cold Blood is such an interesting book. Once you know the story behind the story--such as Capote's creative use of facts--it's fascinating.

I recently watched a documentary about the Clutter Family murders. After reading the book, it's worth watching.

message 3: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments Thanks, Patty! You may have seen that I proposed we have just one discussion thread for this book. Seems too difficult to discuss without spoilers. :)

message 4: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 05, 2018 05:26AM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Okay, since spoilers are permitted here: I was intrigued by a brief section in Bonnie Clutter's story that relates how a psychiatrist (I assume it was a psychiatrist) told Bonnie, who was in the grip of post-partum depression, to take a job and see if life on her own could give her a feeling of adequacy. Bonnie, if I recall correctly, took a file job at a YWCA in a Kansas city . . . and then it seems she liked it rather too much. She felt guilty at her liberation, and then returned to the nuclear family where, by 1959, she was close to an invalid, delegating the household duties to the faithful housekeeper (Mrs. Helm), social duties to teenaged Nancy, and unable or unwilling to make routine farming decisions on behalf of her husband Herb. She also slept alone.

I wonder what people make of this brief passage of how Bonnie temporarily freed herself from family demands and, to borrow a cliche, "made it on her own." For lack of a better term, I called it "proto-feminist" elsewhere. Would Bonnie's story have played out differently 20 - 30 years later; that is, in the 1970s or 1980s? Do you think author Truman Capote was out for anything besides a little extra poignance in the sad story of Bonnie Clutter?

message 5: by Patty (new)

Patty | 3077 comments The life of a woman/housewife/mother is complex under any circumstance. You're basically three different people. We don't know what domestic/intimate issues Bonnie was having at home, nor do we really know what she was really like before and beyond her marriage. She may have been depressed before children; lonely; ignored; etc. As a housewife of the 1950s, however, her interests were to be the family; that job at The Y, got her out of the house and around people. If I remember, before the murders, she was back to bed.

Truman Capote may have caught onto this; maybe his friend Harper Lee helped him. What would it have been like if she was a housewife in the 1970s or 1980s? Working outside the home or not, would she have sought out a life outside her home? Would she feel as isolated? Would she have her own car? Would she have a therapist? Would she have big hair and shoulder pads?

message 6: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 05, 2018 02:03PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments I don't know about the shoulder pads, Patty, but isn't it possible that the Fifties drive toward normalcy may have made Bonnie so infirm?
I'm quoting from p. 27 of the Random House hardbound reproduction version (2002), which sought to copy as closely as possible the 1966 Random House original:

"The second year of the marriage, Eveanna was born, and three years later, Beverly; after each confinement the young mother had experienced an inexplicable despondency -- seizure of grief that send her wandering from room to room in a hand-wringing daze. Between the years of Beverly and Nancy, three more years elapsed, and these were the years of the Sunday picnics and the summer excursions to Colorado, the years when she really ran her own home and was the happy center of it. But with Nancy and then with Kenyon, the pattern of postnatal depression repeated itself, and following the birth of her son, the mood of misery that descended never altogether lifted . . . "

Poor woman! Therefore it seemed to me, at least, the notion that a mis-aligned vertebra or a "slipped disc" was to blame, and that some skillful chiropractor or orthopedist could snap Bonnie back to normality, was a mechanistic solution to a problem that (to me, at least) had social, not physical, origins.

It's on the next page, by the way, that Bonnie's two-month sojourn in Wichita, filing for the YWCA, is discussed.

Bonnie gave Herb four children: Girl, Girl, Girl, Boy. If the conversation in his office with the insurance agent is to be believed (and I do believe it), Herb had big plans for Kenyon, or failing that his future son-in-law, to take over the farm.

message 7: by Patty (new)

Patty | 3077 comments I forgot about this. One of the murderers wrote a manuscript that existed at the time of Capote's writing.

message 8: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments Here are two articles on In Cold Blood written recently. I have not read them in detail since I haven't finished the book, but they both look interesting.

This one from The Guardian, written in 2009 "In Cold Blood, half a century on".

And this one from the New Yorker, "Capote's Co-conspirators" which tackles the subject we've been talking about - how much did Capote play with the facts.

message 9: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 41 comments ALLEN wrote: "I don't know about the shoulder pads, Patty, but isn't it possible that the Fifties drive toward normalcy may have made Bonnie so infirm?
I'm quoting from p. 27 of the Random House hardbound repro..."

I found this particularly sad. They were different times, and I would hope Bonnie would get better treatment and understanding today, though depression and post-natal depression is still not easily treated. My Mum suffered from it, in a different way than in the book, and I have depression too. I felt Bonnie was neglected, and left to her own devices when she couldn’t fulfill her very precise wife/motherly 50’s housewife role. The fact she blossomed when she had an independent, so-called ‘selfish’ role squeezed my heart. The Clutter family were portrayed as beyond perfect, which perhaps they were in their own way, but Bonnie shone out as a chink in their shiny armour. Of all the Clutters, I related to Bonnie the best, maybe followed by nerdy Kenyon. I just think, beside their brutal murders, there’s another sad and subtler story of the Clutters that not even successful wheat fields or pie-making could fix. However, saying that, I feel guilty as these were real people and I’m idly nitpicking their life apart. I wonder what they would have thought of this book? Being under this public scrutiny?

message 10: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 41 comments Suzy wrote: "Here are two articles on In Cold Blood written recently. I have not read them in detail since I haven't finished the book, but they both look interesting.

This one from The Guardian, written in 20..."

Ooh - thanks Suzy, I’ll take a look :)

message 11: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 07, 2018 03:23PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments I don't think I'll spoil any plot events if I reveal that Truman and Nelle Harper Lee were shocked by the heavy religiosity in the Clutter home. There was either a crucifix or chromo of Jesus in every room, which is the kind of display Methodists usually don't go for. ICB gets across Herb Clutter's censoriousness toward any hired help "harboring alcohol" and he was a judgmental non-smoker, too, rare for 1959. Tru and Nelle had to downplay the religiosity in the book, though, or the desired picture of a well-adjusted, sunny mid-American family would have been strained. I don't think Herb Clutter was an ogre, but he was rigid, rigid in a way many NEW YORKER readers would have objected to.

(I'm sorry that I can't list a source for the above -- it wasn't Gerald Clarke's generally encyclopedic bio, probably something I've read in the last 15 years about (Nelle) Harper Lee, Capote's research assistant.)

This is the time to mention that most of ICB ran as three VERY long articles in THE NEW YORKER in 1965, a year before the book itself saw print. They could do that in those days -- lots of print advertising swelled the page count and permitted some extra-long articles.

message 12: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 07, 2018 03:26PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Since people here are presumed to have read the text of ICB, I can now recommend the movie of the same name that was released in 1967. It was so much closer to the time of the actual Clutter murders, investigation and trial that it just LOOKS better. And much of it was set in the real-life Garden City and Holcomb, Kansas. (On the other hand, the 1995 made-for-TV adaptation was filmed largely in Canada, as was one of the later Capote biopics; the other had exteriors filmed in Texas.)

In the ICB movie, though, we see the same Santa Fe passenger trains, similar American cars. In that pre-Amtrak era, the Chief and the Super Chief were among the country's best passenger trains ("celebrated expresses," Capote called them), and indeed on their Chicago-to-L.A. route carried many celebs and movie stars, many of them having made the transfer from the "Twentieth Century Limited" (originating in New York) at Chicago.

I should point out that the movie of ICB isn't ALL grimness. The sequence in which "Johnny" the very old man and his resourceful grandson turn Dick and Perry into avid pop-bottle collectors (this was the day of the two- or three-cent deposit on "empties") is turned into a lark with some delightful Quincy Jones xylophonic music echoing the rattling of a car full of empties about to be cashed in.

I myself remember as a boy, on a different rail route, those U.S.P.O. mail sacks come flying out of the trains in the hope that someone would catch them before they rolled away or wound up in the road! Mail was often cancelled on board passenger trains, too: to this day, stamp collectors treasure such "R.P.O." (railroad post office) cancellations. This is all history now.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 554 comments I believe my mother says that's the only time she's read In Cold Blood - in the New Yorker.

message 14: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 18, 2018 05:38PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments It's been a while since anyone posted here. This aspect of ICB has been touched on, but not yet fully elaborated, I think: as a detective story, it was really pretty simple. The cops had some dumb luck in that a flash bulb picked up the "Cat's Paw" imprint of Perry's bloody shoe that tied him to the Clutter house -- it wasn't visible to the naked eye. Law enforcement had another bit of luck in catching Perry and Dick in Las Vegas before Perry had had a chance to stash his big box full of memorabilia and ditch the stolen car.
(ETA): Also, of course, that Floyd Wells more or less showed up in prison and indicted Hickock and Smith.

Also, for a near-genius, Dick was pretty stupid in having Perry tell the cops that they had inquired at the Fort Smith (KS) post office about his sister's wherebouts -- on a Saturday afternoon. With rare exception -- like right before Christmas -- U.S. post offices were never open on Saturday afternoons. That blew their alibi right away.

In another thread I referred to ICB not as a "Whodunit" but a "Why the hell did they do it?" -- I think that's the crux of the story, and the one Capote worked.

message 15: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments Checking in now that I've finished the book.

I found the exchange earlier about Bonnie Clutter thought-provoking. I hadn't really thought about it while reading the book, but the family was indeed too perfect and the father extremely controlling. For a woman experiencing depression, there would be no room for her imperfections nor for her independence. Sadly. And then we have Nancy. The day when she taught the neighbor to bake the cherry pie, then sewed a dress, and a bunch of other things I'm not remembering is a testimony to how much perfection was part of the equation of being a Clutter.

Allen, on another note, my Mom was from a Santa Fe RR family and we took the train many times from central Illinois to visit her twin sister's family in Los Angeles. Many fond memories of that.

I really liked this book, although for me there were a few parts that sagged as someone mentioned in the other thread. Specifically the piece with all the letters about Perry, although I know these were important to the picture that Capote was building. I love his writing! It is so evocative, allowing the reader to fully picture the scenes and the people. (I felt this about his fiction too.) I had thought that I read this when it first came out, but I couldn't recall anything when I was reading it this time. I know I saw the movie when it was first released and so maybe I also thought I read the book. I'm going to re-watch the original 1967 movie again now having read the book. I only remember I was blown away by it.

I'm going to read the articles I posted earlier in the thread and circle back after doing so.

message 16: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 18, 2018 05:36PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments I like the idea of having this "afterparty" now that no spoiling of an ongoing read is possible. I enjoy the points you made, too.

I DO wish I could have taken one of those "celebrated expresses" run by the Santa Fe pre-Amtrak. A friend of mine went out west to the Philmont Boy Scout camp on the El Capitan, the all-coach streamliner which, in its final years, was coupled onto the Super Chief and operated as one unit. He said the trains were fast, the food good, and the scenery great, but the Trainmen wouldn't let them act up too much (which sounds to me like they were doing their job if confronted with several dozen Boy Scouts on one train!).

message 17: by Frances (last edited Jul 18, 2018 05:49PM) (new)

Frances Ohanenye | 10 comments Hello Allen, I like the idea of the afterparty. I did go on that Amtrak express from Atlanta to New York. Your friend was right. It was fast; it was amazing; the food was great. My daughter and I had a room with television and our own bathroom with shower. It truly was a memorable journey. I have been trying to recreate it, but the fares have gotten too expensive and my daughter has gotten married. Oh, well.
Back to Capote--

I wrote a review on the book. Not knowing the family at all or the situations that led to their murders, I focused on Truman Capote's conduct. Here goes:

I was just disturbed by the moral stance (or lack of) of a journalist (Truman Capote) and the length he went. Did he engineer or manipulate events and evidence in the environment (Holcomb, Kansas) just to get the story to lean the way he wanted?

The gripping nature of the tale and the fact that the murderers almost got away must have fueled Capote's determination to trail the murderers to the point that he did not fear for his own life.

However, as a journalist, I was disturbed and questioned the integrity of my profession for the unconventional methods and actions in which Capote was accused of engaging. Ultimately, the book lost its focus on the Clutter family's murder (of four people) and focused on Capote's extreme measures. I was disturbed at his audacity to justify what he did as "new Journalism". The book (In Cold Blood) was Capote's last and was his undoing.

message 18: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 18, 2018 06:28PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Well, I think it wasn't guilt over shoddy journalism that ruined Capote's career; he put a hell of a lot of work into ICB and it showed. Some people were angry at the liberties Capote took in compiling the book, some people despised him for the oxymoronic term "non-fiction novel," some of them got even with him for keeping ICB off as many fiction AND nonfiction lists as they could.

I do not consider ICB fiction. And there are very few verifiable facts at which he and Nelle erred. In fact, one aspect of the book's criticism that got observers hoppin' mad was that until they really delved into ICB's research and composition, they couldn't tell what had been verified and what couldn't be verified and was made up. Even so, there is very little of the latter.

Again, I refer any interested reader to chs. 39-42 of Gerald Clarke's CAPOTE. Now, I don't want to be little Tru's chief apologist -- he did some things wrong, for sure -- but he also helped established a sub-genre of crime reporting, the occasionally fictive "true-crime" book. Sometimes, it is likely in this subgenre that little invention could or did take place, such as in HELTER-SKELTER. Then there is the kind of book with some, as in John Berendt's MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, in which the author did not live in Savannah at the time of some of the fancy society parties he "profiled" (Nonethless, I forgive him -- I also forgive the Clint Eastwood movie of MIDNIGHT for collapsing Jim Williams' four murder trials into one, though I think the movie is the poorer for it.

It seems likely to me that an extavert like Capote whose demons were let fly by the ICB experience (perhaps not in the exact way the 2005 and 2006 biopics stated, but close) -- just could not keep everything squared away as he did in the 1950s. Alcohol became a crutch, then a way of life -- and those of us who remember some of his TV appearances with great chagrin wonder why he put himself through that -- and why the damned TV networks let him.

I think we'd have had Zsa Zsa with or without Capote; the Kardashians with or without Capote; the TV-ization of news and the rise of the celebrity pol (!) with or without Capote. The Stonewall riots and Gay Lib and Women's Lib would have proceeded with or without Capote. AND Watergate, the Moon Shots, and etc.

However, there's a good chance we'd not have had HELTER-SKELTER or MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL or even the inconsistent but entertaining Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History without Capote's influence -- at least not in the same way. Would writers like the late Ann Rule have had such solid careers without Capote's influence? I can't say, though I doubt it.

In many respects Capote was a "user" but he could be delightful, too. You don't get invited to sail the Greek Islands and play bridge with Bill and Babe Cushing Paley if you are hard to take. When he was desperate for ever-more sensational "copy" and turned on his society friends -- that's when the real rot was apparent. But that was nine years after ICB was published in book form.

What annoys observers even now -- and sometimes the envy is painfully apparent, even today -- is that the same man who wrote the screenplays for BEAT THE DEVIL, THE INNOCENTS (an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw), the man who gave us Holly Golightly and THE MUSES ARE HEARD, "A Christmas Memory" and "The Duke in His Domain" and so much more . . . should be just one person.

"There are no second acts in American life." - F. Scott Fitzgerald.

message 19: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 20, 2018 04:53PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments a) Walmart expected to sell those DVD's.

b) Colby, Kansas is over 100 miles from Garden City or Holcomb.

c) How old would this woman have been in 1959? The movie you refer to played theaters in 2005, the DVD was probably released a little later.

d) I hardly think the Clutter family was ill-served by Capote's portrayal of them as successful and "square." If anything, he and Nelle Harper Lee, his research assistant, toned down Herb Clutter's extreme religiosity. If anything tended in the direction of a "lie," it was to make the family look more wholesome and "normal" than it might have.

e) However, when reporters later returned to Holcomb they found that the village's "gingery" postmistress took Capote's side -- basically she said Capote portrayed them as "broken-down hicks" but that she agreed with that assessment. (I am cribbing from Gerald Clark's biography, but I appreciated the lady's honesty.)

f) Many people felt ill-served by the book or movie. Bobby Rupp, who actually did marry a woman named Colleen and has recently retired from farming, has not read the book or seen any of the movies. That is his privilege. I am sure area residents, who were in no way connected to the killers, have despaired over the years of having their communities tied in the public mind to those senseless slayings nearly sixty years ago.

g) I think we have a situation not unlike the movie THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, where some of the folks who didn't see the movie were the quickest to condemn it.

h) I can't speak to that woman's predicament, but I for one do not think the Clutters were maligned -- far from it. I wonder if she even read the book??

On the larger, post-publication issue: Yes, I agree that Capote let loose some considerable demons (and solidified his dependence on alcohol and drugs) in the aftermath of the book. Like his mother, Lille Mae Parsons Capote, he wanted very much to be a Manhattan socialite. Considering the tragedy of her life, he might have thought better of just that.

It is worth noting that (Nelle) Harper Lee became independently wealthy on sales of the book and movie rights to To Kill a Mockingbird and she later did considerable research on a long, non-fiction "true crime" account in the Deep South -- but except for a couple of small articles, she lived quietly and never appeared in print again until she authorized publication of the much earlier Go Set a Watchman toward the end of her life. But she lived cleanly, and to all appearances, unlike Capote, was not addicted to anything except possibly her own privacy.

By the way, I agree that Capote, in ICB, manipulated MY emotions. But I think he did so ethically.

message 20: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 20, 2018 06:54PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Susan, I'm glad you posted. Even if that woman's reaction was the exception that proves the rule, she had something to say. Certainly Capote played up the wholesome aspects of the Clutters and for the most part they were exemplary people. Even so, I can't forget the reaction of Holcomb's "gingery" postmistress, who went off on a tangent to her daughter when she heard of the deaths:
"When you think how Herb Clutter spent his whole life in a hurry, rushing in here to get his mail without a minute to say good-morning-and-thank-you-dog, rushing around like a chicken with its head off -- joining clubs, running everything, getting jobs maybe other people wanted. And now look -- it's all caught up with him . . . " (pp. 68-69. 2002 repro. edition)

So Capote did let this dissonant thread in. Yes, even in Middle America, even among people who knew them, there was some envy. Of course, Myrt Clare was famous for not censoring herself, and she later verified she had indeed said those things.

This will probably be my last post here, but I thought I'd share this Christmas-card photo of the Clutter family ca. 1950:
See the source image

Apparently Bonnie is seated -- perhaps the stress of a long semi-professional photo shoot would have been too much of a strain? Eveanna and Beverly are still at home. That's Kenyon in the little rocking hair, Nancy seated on the floor to his left.

message 21: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 182 comments Dang I love this discussion. I have gained a new understanding of an old favorite book. Thank you.


message 22: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments FYI if you have Turner Classic Movies and a DVR, In Cold Blood is being broadcast tonight at 2:30ET.

message 23: by Patty (new)

message 24: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Patty wrote: "YouTube has it."

Thank you, Patty!

message 25: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments Thanks Patty!

message 26: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments It’s a well done movie. Chilling.

message 27: by SherryRose (last edited Jul 25, 2018 05:47PM) (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments We hear about these kinds of murders a lot these days. Our 24 hour news channels sensationalize the stories and drain them to the last drop until you can’t stand one more word about it. We’re so jaded. When this book was written and then the movie, it really was something very different. Brutal murder is entertainment now but at that time it was probably very shocking. What I mean by entertainment is the cop shows and harsh books written. The shows win high ratings and the books sell well. In Cold Blood still chilling in my opinion and very well done.

message 28: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments Sherry wrote: "We hear about these kinds of murders a lot these days. Our 24 hour news channels sensationalize the stories and drain them to the last drop until you can’t stand one more word about it. We’re so ja..."

I agree, Sherry, that we are jaded to mass murder (or murder in general) and gruesome details about it whether it's in fiction murder mysteries or on our 24/7 news channels that, to your point, milk everything to the last drop. I think the O.J. Simpson murders were the first in that kind of 24/7 coverage, sigh!

I made a comment in the other thread about how mass murder has changed over the years since these murders. I'm sure these were very shocking at the time, especially since the killers were unknown to the victims. That in itself had to strike fear into the populace.

message 29: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments Very much so!

message 30: by SherryRose (last edited Jul 26, 2018 08:45AM) (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments I wonder how much of Mrs. Clutter’s “nervous” condition had to do with living with a rigid control freak? It’s odd that her doctor said it was her spine problem that caused what seems to be a mental problem. She slept as long as she could. That sounds like depression. We can’t speculate about abuse but my mind goes there, unfortunately.

message 31: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 26, 2018 08:58AM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Sherry wrote: "I wonder how much of Mrs. Clutter’s “nervous” condition had to do with living with a rigid control freak? It’s odd that her doctor said it was her spine problem that caused what seems to be a menta..."

I wonder that myself -- and also, what would a shrink or family-systems therapist make of the fact that Bonnie gave Herb four children: girl, girl, girl and at last, boy (Kenyon). After his birth Bonnie's post-partum depression became insuperable, it seems. The scary part to me was that Bonnie perked up immensely when she took a clerical job in a distant city and lived on her own -- but apparently her guilt at not being the consummate wife-and-mother drove her back to River Valley Farm.

message 32: by SherryRose (last edited Jul 26, 2018 09:05AM) (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments Yes. It seems situational for sure. Their daughter was told that she couldn’t marry a boy because they were kissing. The parents weren’t sleeping together. It’s a very dysfunctional family.

Off topic, I like the way Truman Capote wrote. I’ve never read Other Voices Other Rooms but I read some of his short stories, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Grass Harp. They were very good. The unfinished Answered Prayers is horrible. You can see his decline. I don’t recommend it to anyone!

message 33: by Patty (new)

Patty | 3077 comments We cannot take lightly the pressure pressed on a woman to produce children--especially a male child--especially during this time. The health of the mother was often a secondary matter.

When I was a child--in the 1970s--we had a neighbor whose doctor told her if she continued to have children, she just may die. Surgery and birth control were out of the question. The priest said it was her duty to produce children; her husband felt the same; she did what they said. I believe she didn't have any more children; they had seven--she may just have hit menopause.

Doctors often did not take the concerns of women seriously--not much different now.

message 34: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 26, 2018 09:25AM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments When I chaired an in-person discussion of IN COLD BLOOD about 15 years ago, I wondered out loud what would have happened to the Clutter family if they had survived and caught a bad dose of the Sixties. Herb did not insist that Nancy break it off with Bobby Rupp just because they kissed; Bobby came from a Roman Catholic home and the Clutters were Methodists. What if Nancy had rebelled and married him anyway? Of if Nancy and Sue had gone to college together as planned, majoring in Art, and had gone from artsy to hippie (okay, far-fetched, but I'm just sayin').

I suspect Capote wished to portray the Clutters as a fairly representative middle-class family despite its flaws. The ironies of time and history have made "The Fifties" as a decade appear abnormal in many ways.

A woman whose physician does not treat her as a full human being needs a different physician -- preferably female. IMO.

message 35: by SherryRose (last edited Jul 26, 2018 09:43AM) (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments Oh yes! Thanks for reminding me! The boy was Catholic! Actually it would be very interesting to see how Nancy and Sue would have done. It’s quite possible they would have joined the hippie movement to totally escape their rigid upbringing. Had Nancy actually married out of her church, I have a feeling Mr Clutter would have cut her off. Possibly Bobby’s family could have done the same. People were firm in their faith and not very accepting of what they would have called mixed marriage.
Maybe the hippie daughters could have brought a joint to Bonnie for her nerves. Lol

message 36: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 663 comments I think becoming a hippie is possible for someone from ANY background, but they would have been going to college a few years before that all broke loose. I know this from experience. When I went to a small liberal arts college in 1965 in rural Illinois, we could not wear pants on campus and had to attend chapel weekly, as just two examples of the strictness. Things started loosening up in 1966 and, in 1967 all hell broke loose and those rules were challenged and dropped fairly quickly. And we all know what happened in the next three years. But going to college in 1960 in Kansas would likely not have given them exposure to anything "hippie".

But I like the idea of thinking about how the Clutters would deal with the loosening of religious and moral restrictions as the 60's decade progressed. But we can only speculate . . .

message 37: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 26, 2018 01:11PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments I did notice that Holcomb dedicated the village park to the memory of "Herb and Bonnie Clutter," so apparently the postmistress' mother was rare in her envy. In the interim decades, the village also finally paved its streets, and moved the p.o. from along the Santa Fe tracks to a newer location adjacent along the federal highway north of town.

Toward the end, Holcomb had neither freight nor passenger service, it seems. The BNSF (owned by Warren Buffet) tore down the ramshackle wooden depot. This is not an unusual thing for the BNSF to do -- several years ago it tore down a similar depot in little Rochelle, Illinois. You can, if you wish, take Amtrak's "Southwest Limited" train from the west (L.A.) or the east (Chicago), to Garden City, KS, following roughly the same path the Super Chief, etc., did 50 years ago.

(ETA): I forgot to mention that Holcomb has had something of a population explosion in the past few decades. From around 300 inhabitants at the time of the Clutter murders, it now has over two thousand -- and the high school is still doing fine!

message 38: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments That’s still a very small town.

message 39: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 26, 2018 01:22PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments Yes, although according to Wiki, Kansas classes Holcomb as a "City."

message 40: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments No one is anonymous there. It’s too bad that a brutal slaying of a family put them on the map.

message 41: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments The slayings and IN COLD BLOOD take up most of that Wikipedia article, too. But there are other things, including that Holcomb gave birth to a leading San Francisco Beat! No kiddin'!

message 42: by Jade (new)

Jade Wright (bohobookworm) | 21 comments Hey Book Lovers!

I still need to read this book!
I've just started a BOOKISH PODCAST! Please come and support it!!

message 43: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments ALLEN wrote: "The slayings and IN COLD BLOOD take up most of that Wikipedia article, too. But there are other things, including that Holcomb gave birth to a leading San Francisco Beat! No kiddin'!"

That’s really interesting and wonderful to know!

message 44: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments Suzy wrote: "I think becoming a hippie is possible for someone from ANY background, but they would have been going to college a few years before that all broke loose. I know this from experience. When I went to..."

The timing is a little off for the hippie life. The sad thing is that their future was cut short.
I think whatever was wrong with Bonnie was far more serious than post partum depression. I don’t know what her diagnosis would be today but she was in horrible shape. The sad thing is that having her own place in the city and working helped her but it made her feel guilty. The way Capote portrayed her she seemed suicidal or close to it. Her kids were teens and older. Post partum depression seems way off.

message 45: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 27, 2018 04:40PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments The part that breaks my heart is the scene in which Bonnie stayed at home while the rest of the family and the Kidwells went (IIRC) berry-picking. Mrs. Kidwell discovered Bonnie shut up in a stifling, unairconditioned house on a hot summer day, and told the neighbor that she was always cold, freezing. Then she laments that Nancy and Kenyon would know her only as a "kind of ghost." More than just "nerves," I'd have to say, though surely nerves had to do with it.

I think it was in reading Gerald Clarke's Capote that I first gleaned the insight that Capote with Nelle's help had to keep metaphorically exhuming the dead Clutters. "Tru" and Nelle never met the family; as you know Capote first learned about the murders in the pages of the New York Times -- was it Alvin Dewey's wife who said she had seen Bonnie in a dream, as a ghost? "There's nothing worse than murder -- nothing." This is the Greek Tragedy (with Perry and Dick the Clutters' nemeses), also Shakespearean, where the ghost cries out for vengeance. That may seem corny now, but after all so many of the greats had used it -- consider the ghost of the murdered woman in the movie Rashomon, who had important information to impart. Now, Capote may have quoted Mrs. Kidwell and Mrs. Dewey impeccably (or at least ninety-four percent, a running joke in the movie INFAMOUS), but the way he used those quotations does indeed put ICB in the realm of "creative non-fiction." And I, for one, am fine with that.

Ooh, a fine three-to-five page paper for a class in school: "Spectral Metaphors in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood."

message 46: by SherryRose (last edited Jul 27, 2018 05:01PM) (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments That is a very heartbreaking scene. I don’t know why she feels cold on a sweltering hot day. She has a collection of white night gowns and socks. I don’t know why that is either. She’s actually the most interesting in the book so far.
No I haven’t finished it but having seen the movie several times I’m ok in the spoiler thread.
Her son might have had those depressive tendencies as well but he was still very young.
The fact that Bonnie hasn’t slept with her husband for years is also unusual. The seemingly perfect family is pretty dysfunctional.
She also had the conversation with Nancy’s friend which leaves the reader very sad. She had no self esteem whatsoever and felt useless.

message 47: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 27, 2018 05:17PM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments I don't know if it always ties in with depression or nerves, but some people apparently carry around a hypothalmic imbalance. There was a fourth-grade classmate of mine who inevitably wore sweaters to school -- in Houston -- in an un-airconditioned 1960's elementary school. Otherwise 'D' was "cold". ("It makes me uncomfortable just to look at him" was something my and other Moms said behind his back, since in Houston shedding heat and protecting against heat and not becoming overheated were so much of the daily regimen about eight months a year.)

In Bonnie's case, her feeling so cold may have been a living metaphor for a woman following a life she wasn't ideal for, which then overwhelmed her. I don't think that introverts necessarily "run cold" nor extraverts "run hot" but it does sometimes seem that way, doesn't it? Also, I suppose if someone is underfed and has lost a lot of weight (recall that Bonnie's rings wobbled because her fingers had gotten so thin), that would make folks more susceptible to cold.

I actually think Bonnie would have been happier working at the "Y" and seeing her family once or twice a month.

This is just one man's opinion, but I think the way Bonnie's difficulties were "given flesh" was handled very well. While she may never have been the ideal helpmate/spouse for the demanding Herb Clutter, to read that her youthful vivacity was reduced over time "to a single tone -- a tone of apology" also broke my heart. If people in Holcomb or Garden City wanted to believe that Bonnie had become a semi-invalid due to a "slipped disc" that's their privilege, but I believe psychological factors were probably paramount. I guess in 1959 it was easier for many people to believe that something was physically wrong with Bonnie rather than her not fitting in socially or psychologically to such a go-getting family. Blaming the victim??

message 48: by SherryRose (last edited Jul 27, 2018 06:18PM) (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments I think so too. Her husband was so outgoing it might have overwhelmed her. I hate to say it but I think her kids overwhelmed her too. If she were Catholic she’d be a good nun. She liked her bible too. It’s also interesting that she went to nursing school but couldn’t handle it. Life just plain overwhelmed poor Bonnie. Yet she wished she would have stayed with nursing to say she accomplished something meaningful. She was very pitiful. She liked her job but felt guilty about that. She wouldn’t allow herself to be happy. Happiness made her guilty. Who knows what causes a person to feel guilty about happiness. Maybe because as a mother in the 50s she was supposed to be fulfilled by motherhood alone. Her psychiatrist had a lot to deal with.

message 49: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 927 comments The aftermath of the murders through the eyes of the citizens is very well done.

message 50: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 30, 2018 10:49AM) (new)

ALLEN | 4532 comments You know, Sherry, I'm not sure Bonnie ever visited an actual by-gosh psychiatrist. They were rare back then for cultural and economic reasons (I can't speak for today). There's a kind of negative self-fulfilling prophecy to not seeking out psychiatric help -- (now I'm exaggerating a little): someone like Herb Clutter would not marry a crazy person. I know Bonnie, she's timid but not crazy. Therefore she doesn't need to see a "doctor for crazy people." IIRC Garden City, meaning all of Finney County, Kansas, had no full-time psychiatrist (remember the trouble Perry and Dick's attorneys had seeking psych. evals.?). It may be different today re Bonnie. But even so, I doubt people on the whole would be so sophisticated as to say of Bonnie: "You mean she's seeing a real psychiatrist? Good for her! At least she won't have to have a pharmacology review every time he changes her meds."

When I worked in Wise County, Virginia, in the late 1970s, the whole county (including the City of Norton) had exactly one psychiatrist. And HE spent half his time working on substance-abuse and addiction issues. I know this because I dated a social worker, a caseworker who had a good working knowledge of who was seeing what expert for what reason(s). The county could probably have supported half-a-dozen shrinks, if there had been a way to pay for them. (Also, to be fair, most of those meds. weren't yet on the market ca. 1960.)

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