In Cold Truth

March 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

This whole fact-shifting argument we’ve been having of late is nothing new.  Consider of course,  Truman Capote’s 1966 “nonfiction novel”  In Cold Blood.

Capote always insisted In Cold Blood was “immaculately factual,” but his critics disagreed.

Ralph L. Voss’s new book, Truman Capote and the Legacy of In Cold Blood, discusses where Capote stretched and enhanced.  Here is Reuters book writer Jack Shafer discussing the new look at Capote’s truthiness:

Over the years, the accusations have continued from many corners, including friendly ones. In his sympathetic 1988 book, Capote: A Biography, Gerald Clarke acknowledges that the final scene in the book, which takes place at a graveyard, is fiction. That scene, which is filled with dialogue, has the investigator in the murder case meeting with a friend of one of the slain girls in the cemetery where the murdered Clutter family is buried. Clarke writes that Capote constructed it: “Since events had not provided him with a happy scene, he was forced to make one up.”

A new book by Ralph L. Voss, Truman Capote and the Legacy of In Cold Blood, draws on previous literary forensics and his own scholarship to demonstrate Capote’s shocking faithlessness to the truth. Capote disputed his critics’ claims that he had dropped fiction into his non-fiction, telling one interviewer in 1972 that Esquire was wrong, reiterating: “What I wrote in the book was true.” Even though Voss spends only a couple of chapters debunking In Cold Blood (most of it is a celebration of the book and its influence), he makes it impossible for readers to deny that Capote cut corners, sweetened his material, wrote passages that argue with the facts in his notes and invented scenes.

READ the full Reuters article here.

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§ 4 Responses to In Cold Truth

  • Joe Bonomo says:

    Very true. That ending that Capote constructed to give narrative satisfaction to the book would get him in all kinds of hot water now. I teach ICB to show how even in an “I”-free book the author’s fingerprints can be dusted, and lifted.

  • jlmcclure says:

    And we are certain that earlier writers of nonfiction — Montaigne to Hazlitt to Thoreau to Woolf to Orwell to White — were faithful to the facts in their essays? How?

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