Tuesday, May 29, 2007

one from a book!

Reader Hillary sent me the following email

I submit the entirety of In Cold Blood. Capote's abusive quotation markage is astonishing. Just look at this abomination from the first chapter:

Mr. Clutter liked Bobby, and considered him, for a boy his age, which was seventeen, most dependable and gentlemanly; however, in the three years she had been permitted "dates," Nancy, popular and pretty as she was, had never gone out with anyone else, and while Mr. Clutter understood that it was the present national adolescent custom to form couples, to "go steady" and wear "engagement rings," he disapproved, particularly since he had not long ago, by accident, surprised his daughter and the Rupp boy kissing. He had then suggested that Nancy discontinue "seeing so much of Bobby," advising her that a slow retreat now would hurt less than an abrupt severance later -- for, as he reminded her, it was a parting that must eventually take place.

And you know those are not tiny excerpts from direct quotes, because Mr. Clutter is DEAD!

I want to claw my eyes out, but I've made it through more than 100 pages and by god I'm going to see those bastards hanged.

I'm not familiar with her source material, and therefore encourage contextualization or further comment from capable readers, even more than usual.


Bob K said...

I'm not convinced that these are necessarily inappropriate. I think that in the first three of these instance Capote was trying to suggest that the words are words that Mr. Clutter would not use and perhaps didn't fully understand. I could easily put the the words "so called" or "as they say" in front of these. So, for example, it would read "...she had been permitted so-called "dates"..." or they "form couples, to, as they say, "go steady"...

The last one, "seeing so much of Bobby" appears to be a direct quote.

So, while I can see that if the whole book is like this is would get tiresome, I'm not sure this paragraph convinces me that they are incorrect.

john said...

I'm with Bob. I think it's intentional and stylistic.

Anonymous said...

One of Capote's sources was Nancy's diary, so it's possible that he's citing directly from her entries. I can't verify this, but it's something to think about. That said, Capote does some crazy stylistic things in the book. I enjoyed reading it, but I would never give it to my writing students as an example of perfect prose.

Joshua said...

I agree with all the above. Remember that Capote's book is a product of its time -- phrases like "date" and "going steady" were not necessarily as well-known as they now are, and Capote is clearly indicating slang-usage. While the book is decidedly New Journalism, the full method of that technique had not been worked out, and therefore Capote found himself at odds with journalistic style conventions -- which is why his book can feel so clunky at times -- but certainly explains the quotations. And, since the work IS a piece of journalism, it's highly likely that the longer quotations do come from some source -- Nancy's journal, Nancy's friends, the Rupp boy himself, etc.