In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is an account of the life and execution of two murders, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. The author described his work as journalistic fiction, a genre he claimed to have created in that he combined the reporting of actual events with high, literary style. He received much praise for his work, but recently, his legacy has been called into doubt.
This February, The Wall Street Journal ran an article that questioned the accuracy of the work and released unearthed documents that showed Capote softened his portrayal of one or two investigators in exchange for being given access to their detailed records. (See WSJ, Feb. 8, 2013, Book Section) Capote’s supporters have since cried foul. Having created a genre, they argue, the author was free to set the rules. Slight adjustments to the characters, for whatever reason, did not constitute falsehoods.
If Capote were alive today he’d no doubt be appalled by what seems little more than carping. His story was journalism in that he reported events as they occurred. But the work becomes literature because, unlike journalism which stops at the facts, his characters served to pose a moral question: Can a man be held totally accountable for his actions without regard for the social conditions that shaped him? It’s a fair point to raise and of greater importance than the degree to which Capote may or may not have softened one or two characters.
In Cold Blood is an American masterpiece. That’s one truth everyone should accept.
(Courtesy of www.pariscine.com)