Truman Capote's In Cold Blood as Literary Journalism Essay

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In an article written in 1966 for The New York Times, Eliot Fremont-Smith discusses the squabbles that occurred in the literary world over Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, squabbles that continue today. He wrote of Capote, "The author is now concerned that In Cold Blood be taken as an example of a new literary form, 'the non-fiction novel'"(8).

 

The debate of what constitutes a novel and what constitutes non-fiction. Fremont-Smith argues that the mixing of the two genres is irrelevant:

It is too bad, because this fine work raises questions and offers insights that are far more important and, God knows, more interesting than technical debates over the definition of a new or possibly not new literary form. (Book, 8).
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Discussing the merits of fiction versus non-fiction and calling the genre non-fiction novels or even literary journalism is a non-issue. The issue is whether this type of literature is worth while. The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction contends In Cold Blood blurred "the boundary between standard journalism and fiction" and "could itself create a new layer of narrative tension within the bounds of the traditional novel"(Geyh, 125). It has created a new, worthwhile genre with such a narrative tension.

 

Although one can argue that In Cold Blood was not the first book of its kind, it did change literature. Literary journalism is credited to Capote. Many noteworthy books since In Cold Blood have been written in the style of the non-fiction novel. Sleepers by Lorenzo Caracterra, The Last Brother by Joe McGinniss, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt come to mind, but there are many more.

 

The philosophical questions

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