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After the crime
I’m not Truman Capote so I’m not going to take as long as he did to write his book In Cold Blood and ponder 7 years over a review. Let’s just get it over with.

In Cold Blood is a faction novel: fiction based on facts. It tells the story of a horrible murder that happened in Holcomb, Kansas, on the night of Friday 13th 1959. Is that where our superstition about Friday 13th originates from? (No, it’s not.) That night, the much loved Clutter family was slaughtered in cold blood by two young man that had met in jail: Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The book concentrates on the events leading up to the killing, the quest to find the murderers, their trial(s) and eventually their execution.

Cover In Cold BloodI’ve had the book on my shelf ever since I saw the biopic Capote in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an awesome leading role as the author. But I never picked it up for fear of being bored… Because of the movie I already knew what had happened, see. But I’m glad I no longer procrastinated! I buddy read it with the Boekgrrls in November 2009; exactly 50 years after the crime. And it was quite a powerful experience.

Knowing about the case was no problem at all: the events are revealed at the beginning of the story. That’s partly what’s good about the book: although the outcome is public knowledge, it is still interesting to read. Most times… it is a bit slow in some parts as well.

The Clutter FamilyI admire how Capote skips around the actual murder for quite some time; getting us to know Herb Clutter, his wife Bonny, daughter Nancy and son Kenyon. Meeting Dick and Perry ‘warming up’ with some petty crimes. The author guides us through the days preceding and following the massacre, showing us the town and its people, following the detectives that are hunting down the killers. And then finally, the moment of horror.

In Cold Blood is supposed to be the first in a genre that is now well-known: ‘true crime fiction’. Capote was looking for inspiration as a writer when he read a small newspaper article about the case in Holcomb. It took him 5 years of ‘investigating’ and another 2 to finish the book. Its suggests to be factual (presenting letters, reports etc.), so many of the people involved criticized him for not being completely true to the case. Capote himself replied that it was obviously a novel = fiction.

Capote in Clutter Home

An interesting question is why Capote was so immensely fascinated by this case that he worked on it for so many years. I recall from the movie that the author seemed extremely ‘attracted’ by the perpetrators, especially Perry. And the weird thing is that even I felt sorry for him at times — or even sympathy, no matter that he was such a ruthless killer. On of the strongest scenes in the book is Perry’s confession to KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) officer Albert Dewey. The murders, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith

*** spoiler alert *** The suggestion that Perry Smith would have suffered from schizophrenia is pretty convincing. Unfortunately for him at that time in Kansas state the Durham rule was not yet in practice. This act decrees that “an accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act is the product of mental disease or mental defect“. I must say that I’m against the taking of any life, which means I do not approve of the death penalty in any case – not even in a horrible crime like this.

Bookish connections
Capote’s childhood friend Harper Lee accompanied him to the Midwest as his research assistent. I recently read her most acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird which she wrote a few years after the Holcomb tragedy. It has nothing to do with this case, but it does deal with legislation and justice, telling the story of a murder courtcase in Alabama. Capote is depicted in the book as the boy Dill. But Lee is never mentioned in Capote’s In Cold Blood.

BTW from the movie Capote I had gotten the impression that the author himself would play a role in his book as well, which he does not…

Perry’s childhood during the Great Depression, his family travelling the country in search of work, also brings to mind John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which I had read just before In Cold Blood:

‘Tex John Smith Family picking berries in Oregon. 1933’ Was the caption under a snapshot of four barefooted children wearing overalls and cranky, uniformly fatigued expressions. Berries or stale bread soaked in sweet condensed milk was often all they had to eat. [His sister] Barbara Johnson remembered that once the family had lived for days on rotten bananas, and that, as a result, Perry had got colic; he had screamed all night, while Bobo, as Barbara was called, wept for fear he was dying. [p.177]

Women Unbound buttonBecause of some quotes about the role of women, the story also made me think of the October Boekgrrls’ buddy read: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, which is set in fifties as well. Since I’m participating in the Women Unbound challenge, I’ll give this topic its own heading.

The role of women
Bonny Clutter was a very troubled housewife (according to this book = according to Capote? The people in the village? Her family?). Bonny herself believed that a pinched nerve was the cause of her problems. But to the contemporary reader it is obvious that she was depressed; which might be postnatal depression as is suggested in the book, but I rather believe her unfulfilling everyday life must have amplified it. In the past she had been living in Wichita for 2 weeks, having her own apartment and a job. Doctor’s orders. And it seemed to help…

[..] but she had liked it too well, so much that it seemed to her unchristian, and the sense of guilt she in consequence developed ultimately outweighed the experiment’s therapeutic value. [p.26]

So she turned into a woman that:

[..] had reduced her voice to a single tone, that of apology, and her personality to a series of gestures blurred by the fear that she might give offence, in some way displease. [p.23]

Then there’s Nancy’s attitude to her father Herb Clutter.

‘[..] Can’t you make your father understand that?’ No, she could not. ‘Because,’ as she explained it to Susan, ‘whenever I start to say something, he looks at me as though I must not love him. Or as though I love him less. And suddenly I’m tongue-tied; I just want to be his daughter and do as he wishes.‘ [p.19]

I don’t have any intelligent thoughts about this but I do think it says a lot about the way women wore culturally imposed and emotional straitjackets at the time. It seems to have been engraved in our x-chromosomes — and the leftovers sometimes pop-up… Because although it’s 50 years later and I’ve been raised by a feminist mom, I’m embarrassed to say that the feelings described are not completely unfamiliar to me. (Can I get another Honest Scrap Award now, please? ;)

Other thoughts on the book…
I did think the Clutters were a bit too good to be true — except for poor Bonny of course, who was such a troubled, incompetent mother & wife :\

If I had not known the book was based on facts and written relatively short after the real events, I would have sworn to have come upon an anachronism:

[..] Nancy had cleaned up, put all the dishes in the dish-washer, [..] [p.49]

OMG my well-to-do grandparents (or should I say my grandma?) first got a washing machine about a whole decade later! Let alone I would know anyone who had a dish-washer at that time… But hey, I wasn’t born yet either ;)

Movie connections…
In Cold Blood has made such an impression that I was reminded of it during several movies I saw shortly after. That happened because of the schizophrenia in the horror movie Bug and the bloody massacre in Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance.

But it doesn’t end here; the bookgroup read will result in a film follow-up real soon! Some Boekgrrls are coming over to watch the 1967 film In Cold Blood with me. It got 8 stars in the Internet Movie Databse so I’m having no worries about being bored because I already know the story ;)

Clutter home in recent times

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Book Bloggers Holiday Swap buttonHow exciting, I’m going to be a secret Santa! I’ve dropped my name in Santa’s bag for the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. Want to join as well? Be quick: subscription ends November 12th!

Good thing the holiday swap perked me up because my attempt at the Bookcrossing Spooky Booky 24 hour readathon was an absolute #FAIL. I knew I was on a tight schedule last week, but I had hoped to at least beat last month’s result of 15 hours and 8 minutes. Well… I didn’t even come close! [starts whispering] I scrambled together a meagre total of 7 hours, 10 minutes :-o

So the ‘spooky’ book I’m reading is still the same as last Sunday: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It’s pretty grim! It shows the real thing to fear are our fellow humans; not those Halloween ghosts, vampires or zombies. Capote absolutely has me by the throat!

A more relaxing bookish event that took place at my home yesterday was that some Boekgrrls came over to watch Revolutionary Road, the movie adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel. The overall opinion? Director Sam Mendes did a great job (even though the book is still way better). I’m just not sure whether I would have liked the film as much had I not read the book beforehand.

April & Frank Wheeler

Another minor detail: I kept seeing Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet instead of Frank and April Wheeler… But still, I’m glad to have seen it: I enjoyed it much, much more than, in example, the adaptations of Atonement and Enduring Love (other books I really like). Although ‘enjoy’ might not be the right word for a story like Revolutionary Road…

Well, I’ve only got another 100 pages left of In Cold Blood, so coming week I hope to start in The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata for my Japanese Literature Book Group. I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of this Nobel Prize winner before, but since I know we’re going to read his book I have heard other novelists mention him as an example for their own writings. So, I’ll talk to you next week in The Sunday Salon!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Wat een mazzel! Bij het maken van de woensdagse Mexicaanse maaltijd (met natuurlijk knof en ui in de salsa picante en avocadomousse), kwam ik erachter dat ons voorraadje peterselie op was. En wát zat er in de nieuwe groententas..? Phew, dat scheelt weer knoflookwalm ;)

Aardvlo veggiebag week 45En ook met de stoofpeertjes zijn we superblij — misschien maak ik daar wel een toetje van voor het loekavondje van a.s. zaterdag: Revolutionary Road staat op het programma, nadat het boek van Richard Yates vorige maand is gelezen door de boekgrrls. Het boek van november is In Cold Blood van Truman Capote, dus zit er nóg zo’n avondje in het verschiet :) Maar ik dwaal af…

De tas van deze week:

  • stoofpeertjes
  • platte peterselie
  • prei
  • bospeen
  • winterpostelein
  • groene kool

Wie weet een lekker — niet te ingewikkeld — dessert met stoofpeertjes??

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Let’s start this Salon post with a confession: I have been a bad grrl and bought 3 more books for myself!

  • I Am a Cat (Natsume Soseki)
  • The Old Capital (Yasunari Kawabata)
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa)

I’ve got a great excuse though: I joined the new online Japanese Literature Book Group and Read-along at In Spring It Is The Dawn — and these are the first books on the agenda. I am really looking forward to it!

Hello Japan! logoAnother fun thing to do over there is this months Hello Japan! mini mission:

Read or watch something scary, spooky, or suspenseful, and Japanese of course!

DarkWaterSince I have enough to read already I decided to rent a movie that has been on my wishlist for a long time now: Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara), by Hideo Nakata. You might have heard of the American remake with Jodie Foster, but I prefered to see the original. I’ll tell you why in my upcoming review post! It was a nice Friday night activity to surprise Mr Gnoe with, especially with the stormy autumn weather that has set in :)

But back to bookish things. For the last three months of 2009 I am also participating in the Set It Yourself Challenge (SIY) #10. Just to keep the pressure on my challenges: I have listed all 5 books I need to read before the end of this year:

  • The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  • The Pillowbook (Sei Shonagon)
  • The Sea, the Sea (Iris Murdoch)
  • The Old Capital (Yasunari Kawabata)

I have joined this Bookcrossing challenge before in 2008 and 2009; succeeding twice, failing once…

Speaking of Bookcrossing: I made a first attempt at the Bookcrossing monthly readathon. 24hrreadathonbuttonBut instead of 24 I read for 15 hours and 8 in the last week of September. So technically I failed but I am actually quite proud of the result because it was an awfully busy week. You can read about my thoughts concerning the readathon in Friday’s post. Now I am really looking forward to the autumnal 24 hour read-a-thon of October 24th! I am already making a list of books and snacks to lock myself in with :)

Partly thanks to the readathon I finished more books in September than I usually read in a month:

  • Vlinder in de wind (Butterfly in the Wind) by Rei Kimura (reviewed)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (review pending), #4 on the list of Banned and Challenged Classics
  • Het pauperparadijs (Pauper Paradise) by Suzanna Jansen (no review planned)
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (review pending)

Current book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Wednesday’s update post will tell you why I picked this book. I am ‘buddy reading’ with two Boekgrrls: MaaikeB and Manon, so one of these days I should mail them my thoughts so far!

Another exciting thing going on this week is BAFAB! Buy A Friend A Book. One of my favourite reads of the past years is on its way to a long time friend that is on a busy schedule at the moment. I’ll give the book a chance to arrive for a few days longer, so I can’t say more! ;)
Do you BAFAB?

Challenges / Bookgroups etc.

Progress update on my challenges that I have not yet mentioned above:

Current Bookgroup reads:

  • Boekgrrls September book: Away, by Amy Bloom (read and reviewed in Dutch on the mailing list)
  • Boekgrrls October book: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates (read, to be reviewed)
  • Japanese Literature Book Group for November 30th: The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata (TBR)
  • Japanese Literature Read-along for November 15th: I Am A Cat (part I), by Natsume Soseki (TBR)

That’s it for now. I need to get up my review of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird a.s.a.p. so that I can send this Bookcrossing book along to the next reader. Better get on with it!

As expected I did not reach the goal of reading 24 hours in a week, but I did accomplish my own target of 12! ‘Half-a-readathon’, as another Bookcrosser put it. I even surpassed it a little, with an end total of 15 hours and 8 minutes. And it has been fun! So I will probably join in again, maybe even in the Spooky Booky October Readathon. If I have any reading energy left after the full time 24 hour read-a-thon in the weekend of October 24th, that is…

Anyway, it is a GREAT surprise that I have won the monthly readathon prize! I’ll keep an anxious eye on my mailbox to see what wishlist book chucklethescot has sent me!

Banned Books Week posterWhat I liked best about the readathon is that I used any free minute to try and read. I started fresh with Revolutionary Road and finished it in only a few days! After that I picked up a book fitting Banned Books Week (The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck) and I got 1/5th read of it already. Sometimes it takes me a while to get into a book because I read too little, but I had no problem with that now ;) Both books by Steinbeck and Yates are part of this years Classics Challenge (among others), so the readathon also gave me quite a push ahead at that!

On the other hand… what I liked less about the readathon is that I didn’t get to do other stuff, like review books (or take enough time to think them over) or make bento’s for lunch. That gave me a feeling of being behind… But it was only for a week and I’ll be able to catch up now! But it is something to consider next time I join in.

With only one more day to go in the Bookcrossing September Readathon, I have read for 13 hours and 37 minutes. No way I am going to reach the target of 24 hours, but I was going to be proud at myself if I would make 12 hours — and I’ve gotten that far one and a half hours back! :))

More good news is that I (started and) finished a book during the readathon: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. And it was a great read!!! You’ll have to wait a while for a review because first I’ve got to try my hand at To Kill a Mockingbird.

Cover Grapes of WrathNow I have started reading another classic: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. I picked this one because it is part of my personal and Classics challenge and this week it is Banned Book Week in which Americans celebrate the freedom to read. They have been doing so since 1982, in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Steinbeck is #3 on the list of banned and challenged classics. #1 (The Great Gatsby) I read in 2006, #2 (The Catcher in the Rye) I have tried sometime and put away again. The Grapes of Wrath was burned (!) in its year of publishing by the East St. Louis, III Public Library and as late as 1993 it was challenged in the Union City Tenn. High School classes (read more?). Well, it is too early for me to have any opinion on the book but I am against censorship no matter what.

Let’s see what my end total will be tomorrow!

On the left you see my first attempt at a (personal) logo for the Bookcrossing 24 hours readathon taking place at the end of each month. My participation in September’s readathon is a first attempt as well — and it is not going great :( So I guess I shouldn’t doodle any more time away ;) I had another image in mind for this logo but it will have to wait until I have more time on my hands. I’ve got to read! LOL

I’d better confess how I am doing up until now… I’ve read for 3:56 hours; reaching page 104/337 of Richard YatesRevolutionary Road. In two and a half days that’s about a one day target :-o Let’s see if I can catch up in the remaining time! Just 1204 more minutes of reading to do…

BTW for those pen-pushers among you wondering why I sometimes write read-a-thon and readathon another time: I try to use spelling chosen by the organizing party. Myself, I prefer read-a-thon. Just so you know ;)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

I am mentally preparing myself for the 24 hour read-a-thon that will take place in the weekend of 24-25 October. Cover Revolutionary RoadNot only am I contemplating my pile of books and what snacks to hoard, but last Friday I also joined this month’s Bookcrossing read-a-thon for which I need to read 24 hours in one week. I am having quite a busy schedule so I’m not at all sure if I will make it, but a grrl can try. I’ll write a seperate post of my progress in Richard YatesRevolutionary Road! I had finished Het pauperparadijs the day before the challenge started.

Cover Het Boek DahliaAnother bookish thing that happened to me this week is that I received a review copy The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert, in Dutch translation. I have never before received a review copy and did not request it… It was sent to me as a prize in a little spring quiz. Now what do I do? I guess I shouldn’t feel obliged to review the book. But I am not even sure if I would like to read it :-o The blurb suggests some kind of chicklit — which I am no fan of. Anyone out there who knows if that’s true? Even better: can anyone convince me to read, or not to read this book?

buyafriendabook.comLast but not least I am very excited that BAFAB week is coming up! “BAFAB?” Yes! Buy A Friend A Book in the first week of October :) Because of my huge Mt. TBR and overcrowded reading programm for the rest of 2009 I am not allowed to get myself any new books. But I can surprise someone else, can’t I? :)) Now how am I going to tackle this: choose a book first and then a beneficiary, or the other way round?

Oh my, and I almost forgot: I also started another round of the 2009 History Challenge at Bookcrossing! I’ll have to release 12 books at historic sites before the end of this year; that makes 3 a month. Having done 4 already I’m ahead of schedule. Read all about my releases in my forum post. I did a first round of 12 from January until May.

Well, you will probably understand that I am keeping my salon post short this week — I need to read! Actually I should be writing a review of To Kill a Mockingbird (that I finished two weeks ago), but that’ll have to wait just a bit longer…

In preparation of the 24 hour read-a-thon that will take place in one day (!) on October 24th, I have joined the September read-a-thon at Bookcrossing, where you have to read 24 hours in one week. To be honest I don’t know what I find more difficult… Especially since I am having a busy schedule this week, and there’s the Dutch Film Festival going on as well… Lets see how far I will get.

I started fresh in a new book this morning: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. I’ve read 25 pages while commuting for 48 minutes. Yes, when you have to tick off 24 hours = 1440 minutes, almost every second counts! Revolutionary Road is not an easy read to start the day with — getting me a little depressed! Good thing it’ll be weekend soon :)

Now I’m at work (there’s other stuff to do here LOL), but the autumn weather is quite nice so I might go outside during my lunchbreak and get some reading done!

Classics reading challenge 2009 buttonAs you may have read in my earlier post, I also joined the 2009 Classics Challenge.

I entered the Classics Entree level, which means I have to read 5 classics this year. Plus I want to go for the bonus by reading a book of the ‘Future Classic List’, since I’ve got some of those titles piled up on Mount TBR!

I think I can manage this additional challenge because I planned to read some classics already. Here’s my list:

Let’s see how things go: I consider Revolutionary Road a classic already so I might change my level to Classics Feast at the end of 2009 and read another bonus book ;)

To be honest, by joining this challenge I hope to help myself accomplishing the task I had set myself already. Now the hard part is really to blog my reviews!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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