In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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Synopsis

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. The book that made Capote’s name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative.

My Thoughts

In Cold Blood is widely regarded as Truman Capote’s best and most influential novels. It tells the true story of the murder of the Clutter family in 1959. The Clutters were a well-respected family of four in the tiny farming town of Holcomb, Kansas – Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon. They were brutally murdered by two petty criminals who were on the hunt for a non-existent safe full of cash but actually made off with about $50 and a radio.

Capote was a journalist at the time and, with his childhood friend Harper Lee, traveled to Holcomb to cover the story of one of the most gruesome of senseless murders of the time. Capote spent five years in Holcomb, mixing a blend of fact gleaned from interviewing the protagonists and fiction to write In Cold Blood.

I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity to read In Cold Blood properly. I have studied parts of this novel in several of my writing units at uni and I regret reading it in bits and pieces first. I wish I’d done it the other way round because I did find it difficult when I came to sections I had read previously. And it was impossible not to think of all the academic kind of stuff I had covered previously.

I am glad I studied this novel, though, because there are so many interesting things about it and the way it was written. In Cold Blood was a completely new style of writing at the time. Crime and mystery fiction have always been popular genres, but In Cold Blood isn’t fiction. And many parts aren’t quite factual either. Capote called this sensational new style of writing New Journalism and this development has been incredibly influential in the crime and mystery genres (and many would argue in journalism!) ever since.

Now I feel better by covering some of the academic reasons for why  In Cold Blood is a modern classic I will finish by recommending this novel to all the true crime fans out there. Capote’s blend of fact and fiction is a masterpiece and the only thing I regret is not reading it earlier.

And finally, here is a rather cute pic of my crazy Zeus checking out my copy!

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Details

Title: In Cold Blood

Author: Truman Capote

ISBN: 0141182571 (ISBN13: 9780141182575)

Published: February 3rd 2000 by Penguin (first published 1965)

Genre: Classics, Modern Classics, True Crime

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

7. In Cold Blood

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The Art of War by Sun Tzu: #bookreview #DBowieBooks

war

Goodreads Synopsis

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.

(Original publication date was circa 500 BCE.)

Details

Title: The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

ISBN: 1590302257 (ISBN13: 9781590302255)

Published: Originally published circa 500 BCE

Genre: Classics, Eastern Philosophy, Non-Fiction

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 StarsThis book is part of the

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

My Thoughts

Although The Art of War was written over 2000 years as a war manual for Chinese soldiers, many of the lessons can be applied to almost any situation where there is conflict, particularly the business world. The 13 topics in each chapter include: laying plans, attack by strangers. tactical dispositions, energy, weak points and strong, maneuvering, variation in tactics, the army on the march, terrain, the nine situations, the attack by fire, and, the use of spies.

While it is relatively safe to skip some of the more detailed descriptions of Chinese terrain, there are some valuable and universal lessons to be learned. The biggest take aways for me is that to effectively ‘win’ when conflict arises it is important to learn as much about the situation as possible and deploy the right tactic for each situation. Only sometimes is an all-out attack is the best option:

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.

The Art of War is the 6th book I read since undertaking the David Bowie Reading Challenge approximately one year ago and today is the anniversary of the day Ziggy Stardust went back home. I still wish he was here but the past 12 months have brought my own little Ziggy Stardust into my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated every single book that I’ve read from David Bowie’s top 100 books of all time.

zs
My own Ziggy Stardust

 

I’m going to pair this novel with David Bowie’s recently released posthumously track, No Plan. After being ripped off in his early years Bowie strategically built his empire to be so strong that he is still in control of when and how his music is released!

Review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is famous for being banned for its racy sex scenes. There is a lot ofchatterley  discussion about sex and quite a lot of swear words are sprinkled throughout, but it really isn’t that controversial for this day and age.

The novel was published in 1928, so it definitely was very sexual for those times. What I think is much more interesting about this novel is the discussion surrounding class the way Lawrence viewed the ways that England had changed due to the Industrial Revolution. These views were extrememly controversial for the 1920s and this is what makes Lady Chatterley’s Lover such an important novel. It’s a snapshot of a time of great upheaval.

I also found the contrast between this novel and The Great Gatsby interesting. They were both written about the same time but from very different perspectives. Where The Great Gatsby is about the wealthy New Yorkers, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is about the titled familys of England.

I found Lady Chatterley’s Lover to be a bit of a slow read. I really didn’t feel very interested in any of the main characters and didn’t much care what happened to them in the end. I did find Lawrence’s views on class and the industrialisation of England enlightening and found myself pausing to highlight quite a bit.

Definitely a novel worth reading, but not simply for racy sex scenes. I do wonder if the 2020s will be as tumultuous as the 1920s? That seems about the right time for the digital revolution to be in full effect!

David Bowie Song:

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie feels like a good choice to describe the pressure felt by the workers during this period

 


Description

LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER was banned on its publication in 1928, creating a storm of controversy. Lawrence tells the story of Constance Chatterley’s marriage to Sir Clifford, an aristocratic and an intellectual who is paralyzed from the waist down after the First World War. Desperate for an heir and embarrassed by his inability to satisfy his wife, Clifford suggests that she have an affair. Constance, troubled by her husband’s words, finds herself involved in a passionate relationship with their gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. Lawrence’s vitriolic denunciations of industrialism and class division come together in his vivid depiction of the profound emotional and physical connection between a couple otherwise divided by station and society

Details

Title: Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Author: D.H. Lawrence

Published: 1928

ISBN: 0007925557 (ISBN13: 9780007925551)

Genre: Classics, Literature, Romance, Historical Fiction

Pages: 402

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 4/100

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Horrorshow raskazz with lashings of ultraviolence! clockwork

A Clockwork Orange is a modern classic. Published in 1962, it depicts a frightening dystopian future where youths hopped up on drugs run riot in the streets and terrorise people in their own homes. Alex, our humble narrator, is one of those youths.  Even though it is obvious he knows better, he is determined to continue on his merry way wreaking havoc with his droogs (friends), until they set him up and he is sent to prison. Alex undertakes an unusual and horrifying form of ‘therapy’ which makes him physically unable to perform or even think about acts of violence and is unceremoniously discharged from prison and left to fend for himself.

This novel raises some important questions about the matters of free will and choice. Is it morally ethical to remove a person’s ability to choose their own behaviour? How about when it means they will cease to commit acts of violence against others? Clearly the message this novel conveys is that is unethical to remove a person’s free will. I almost began to feel sorry for Alex when he was first released from prison and was unable to defend himself, but I soon got over that when he went straight back to his old ways as soon as he was able to.

The Final Chapter

My edition does contain the final chapter which is missing from many versions, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s film. I found it to be a bit of let down. I liked the idea of Alex deciding to change his ways, but thought the way he reached his decision was a bit unbelievable. It didn’t gel with anything we’d heard from him previously to just up and decide to be good for no other reason besides he wants a wife and child one day. Of course, I believe anyone can change, but there usually needs to be some kind of motivating event. Like maybe an actual wife and child.

Besides from that, it’s a must read. The made up language, nadsat, can be difficult to get into. I found this nadsat dictionary very useful for the first few chapters, but it is quite easy to get into the hang of it.

EDIT 24/02/16

I forgot to include my David Bowie song to match A Clockwork Orange. Obviously it’s Girl Loves me!

 


Description

“What we were after was lashings of ultraviolence.”

In this nightmare vision of youth in revolt, fifteen-year-old Alex and his friends set out on a diabolical orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex is jailed for his teenage delinquency and the State tries to reform him – but at what cost?

Social prophecy? Black comedy? A study of free will? A Clockwork Orange is all of these. It is also a dazzling experiment in language, as Burgess creates “nadsat”, the teenage slang of a not-too-distant future.

Details

Title: A Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

Published: 1962

ISBN: 0241951445 (ISBN13: 9780241951446)

Genre: Classics, Sci Fi, Dystopia, Literature

Pages: 141

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 4/100

1984

The Great Gatsby

The Gnostic Gospels

A Clockwork Orange

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Fascinating insight into early Christianity gnostic

In 1945 fifty-two papyrus texts were found in an earthenware jar buried in the desert in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These texts are Coptic translations from Greek texts that were written by gnostic Christians around the same time as the New Testament. They are very different from the Christianity we know, though.

Gnostic Christians had many ideas and beliefs in common with Catholic Christians, but they differed on some key ideas. So much so that they eventually were branded as heretics and shunned from Christianity altogether, which is most likely why these texts were buried around the same time the New Testament was being compiled.

I believe that the key difference can be found in the names of the two groups. The Greek meaning for gnosis translates to ‘knowledge’ while Catholic translates to ‘universal’. So the Catholics cater for the masses while the Gnostics focus on the self.

World renowned religious scholar, Elaine Pagels, examines several of the key differences between the Gnostic and Catholic Christians. These differences include beliefs about Christ’s resurrection, structure/authority in church, the gender of God, the Passion of Christ, and martyrdom. She sees these differences as instrumental in the downfall of the Gnostics and the rise of the Catholics, particularly the structure of the church.

I found the Gnostic Gospels absolutely fascinating. It was easy to read and Pagels did a brilliant job bringing these ancient texts to life. I think it says a lot about human nature that the Catholic version of Christianity won out over the much more solipsistic and antiauthoritarian Gnostics were proclaimed heretics!

There are a plethora of David Bowie songs that could fit with this book, but I’m going to go with his last one, Lazarus. Like the Gnostics, Bowie spent a lot of time researching religion, so his last words on the matter are the most appropriate.

Description

The Gnostic Gospels is a landmark study of the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal. First published in 1979 to critical acclaim, winning the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Gnostic Gospels has continued to grow in reputation and influence over the past two decades. It is now widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and accessible histories of early Christian spirituality published in our time.

In 1945 an Egyptian peasant unearthed what proved to be the Gnostic Gospels, thirteen papyrus volumes that expounded a radically different view of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ from that of the New Testament. In this spellbinding book, renowned religious scholar Elaine Pagels elucidates the mysteries and meanings of these sacred texts both in the world of the first Christians and in the context of Christianity today.

With insight and passion, Pagels explores a remarkable range of recently discovered gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, to show how a variety of “Christianities” emerged at a time of extraordinary spiritual upheaval. Some Christians questioned the need for clergy and church doctrine, and taught that the divine could be discovered through spiritual search. Many others, like Buddhists and Hindus, sought enlightenment — and access to God — within. Such explorations raised questions: Was the resurrection to be understood symbolically and not literally? Was God to be envisioned only in masculine form, or feminine as well? Was martyrdom a necessary — or worthy — expression of faith? These early Christians dared to ask questions that orthodox Christians later suppressed — and their explorations led to profoundly different visions of Jesus and his message.

Brilliant, provocative, and stunning in its implications, The Gnostic Gospels is a radical, eloquent reconsideration of the origins of the Christian faith.

Details

Title: The Gnostic Gospels

Author: Elaine Pagels

Published: 1979

ISBN: 0679724532 (ISBN13: 9780679724537)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Religion, Christianity

Pages: 182

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 3/100

1984

The Great Gatsby

The Gnostic Gospels

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A beautifully written snapshot of New York in the 1920s, old sport. gatsby1

The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, as well as a literary classic. I’m sure many people have studied this novel at some point during their school days!

It is narrated from the perspective of Nick Carraway who comes from a well-off Midwest family to New York in 1922. He becomes a mediator in the messy romance between his mysterious and fabulously wealthy next-door neighbour, Jay Gatsby, and his married cousin, Daisy. Daisy’s husband, Tom, is also having an affair and Nick spends most of the novel dating Jordan Baker,  who is a flapper and golf pro.

The Great Gatsby has become the quintessential novel of the 1920s, or the Jazz Age as Fitzgerald preferred to call it, and the decay of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby spent his entire adult life chasing the notion of the great American dream only to end up dead and alone, which implies that Fitzgerald believed it was a futile endeavour.

I believe the characters of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway represent different aspects of how Fitzgerald viewed himself. Fitzgerald’s wife was similar to the character of Daisy and it is well-documented that he spent a great deal of effort to make a name and fortune to impress her, much the way that Gatsby does for Daisy. Nick is the part of Fitzgerald who sees through the snobbish veneer of New York’s elite, forever feeling like an outsider.

The Great Gatsby is another one of my all-time favourite novels. I love Fitzgerald’s beautiful writing style that encapsulates the 1920s perfectly. It was a tumultuous period and this novel provides a perfect snapshot of several of the major social issues of the time: bootlegging, consumerism, social climbing, snobbery, fast cars, and reckless behaviour. The original cover is possibly my favourite book cover ever!

I can’t think of a David Bowie song that fits with The Great Gatsby, but I’m open to suggestions. As an outsider who made New York his home, I can see why Bowie listed this book as one of his favourites. I think he led the Gatsby lifestyle for quite some time before he realised the silliness of it all.

EDIT 31/01/16 I’m so silly! Fame is the perfect Bowie song for The Great Gatsby.

Fame, makes a man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow
Fame
Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane
Fame
Fame, what you like is in the limo
Fame, what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, what you need you have to borrow
Fame
Fame, “Nein! It’s mine!” is just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to, crime
Fame
Could it be the best, could it be?
Really be, really, babe?
Could it be, my babe, could it, babe?
Really, really?
Is it any wonder I reject you first?
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Is it any wonder you are too cool to foolFame
Fame, bully for you, chilly for me
Got to get a rain check on pain
Fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame,
fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame,
fame
Fame, fame, fame
Fame
What’s your name?

[whispered:]

Feeling so gay, feeling gay?
Brings so much pain?


Description

THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

Details

Title: The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Published: 1925

ISBN: 0743273567 (ISBN13: 9780743273565)

Genre: Classics, Literature, Fiction

Pages: 192

Source: I own my copy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 2/100

1984

The Great Gatsby

 

 

1984 by George Orwell

I’ve decided to post a review of 1984 by George Orwell to kick off my David Bowie top 1984100 books reading challenge because it also happen to be one of my own favourites. I have read this novel many times, most recently in November. I wrote an essay about George Orwell’s Why I Write, blogging, and the collapse of the private and public spheres. It was just as heavy as it sounds, but do have a read of Why a Write if you haven’t already!

I have no idea how to write this review without including SPOILERS, so please stop reading immediately if you haven’t read 1984 yet.

1984 was the very distant future at the time it was written in 1948…see what he did there? Obviously the world hasn’t turned out exactly the way Orwell imagined, but I often suspect that he wasn’t too far off the mark either.

Point 1: Orwell claimed that technologies such as TV and radio would be used to spy on and control citizens:

Not TV and radio so much, but the Internet obviously has an enormous amount of privacy concerns. Privacy is certainly a different concept now than it was in 1948.

Point 2: The media will be increasingly used to influence public opinion:

I think that’s obviously pretty accurate these days.

Point 3: The world will constantly be at war, but there will be no world wars or use of atomic bombs:

Spot on.

Point 4: Countries will become allies with former enemies and vice versa.

True again

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that 1984 is too slow paced, but I think this was intentional. Living in a dystopian world such as Winston’s would be a grim and dull existence. I know we’re used to a bit more excitement and action these days, but Orwell wrote this novel with one purpose in mind. To deliver a strong political message and voice his concerns about the way he saw the world heading.

Believe it or not, I can see similarities between Orwell and David Bowie. They both wanted to make the world a better place and used art to deliver their messages. Orwell was obviously much more abrasive and in your face than Bowie though!

As the line in Space Oddity goes:

Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.

I see this to mean there are some truly awful and horrific things in this world. Make yourself aware of what’s going on around you, but that is often all we can do. Look for the good and the beautiful anyway.

I consider 1984 to be a must read. I have too many favourite books to have one book I would call my favourite, but 1984 is definitely a contender if I had to choose just one. Please don’t ask me to choose though!

Description

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia” -a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

Details

Title: 1984

Author: George Orwell

ISBN: 0451524934

Published: 1949

Pages: 268

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy

Source: I own my copy

Rating: 5/5 stars

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