Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Get Defunct Outta My Face

We were talking the other day about The New Journalism, and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood was an excellent example. Capote saw an article in LIFE magazine about a couple of losers who thought they had a sure bonanza in robbing Kansas farmer Herb Clutter. Just like in some Dragnet episode, they got to his house, tied up his family and then found out that Mr Clutter did all his financials with checks and had hardly any cash on hand around the place anyway. So, they killed the entire family.

Capote, inspired by the small article in LIFE, went to Kansas, which must have been a terrific shock to the Jayhawk state, and wrote the story in a book...as if it were a detective novel. Capote was a wonderfully gifted writer, so much so that I and many other fans of Jack Kerouac were willing to overlook the snippy comment he made about Kerouac's stream of consciousness style ("That's not writing; that's typing.") In Cold Blood is one of those books that I will pick up from time to time and read all the way through again; the writing is that good. Even though I know how everything is going to come out, I like his writing.

Another far more spontaneous example of The New Journalism, which was simply a way of writing non-fiction in a creatively fictional style, was turned in by Tom Wolfe. A feature reporter for the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune, he was sent to write a story about a teenage culture exposition in Southern California, where there was surf music, dancing, slot-car racing and custom cars. Wolfe did all the research and interviews, and when it came time to write the final story, he couldn't find the handle that would please his editors and still make sense. With a deadline approaching, the editor gave up and told Wolfe to just type up his notes and send them in, for some rewrite guy to...rewrite. The editor took the letter Wolfe sent, cut out "Dear Byron," from the top, and let it run just as it was.

This was 1963, and by then Capote was working on In Cold Blood, but not had published it yet.

I love colorful, vivid writing, and pizza. More on pizza later!

No comments: