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In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As my recent book choices show, I've developed a bit of an interest in true crime, but I assure you, this happened purely by accident. I read The Monster Butler because Evanna Lynch was cast in a movie of that title, and I read this for a similarly tangential reason: Harper Lee helped Truman Capote research it. Otherwise, I probably never would have read it. The title itself is a turn-off. But now I'm glad I have. Though not an enjoyable book, it was most certainly a riveting and well-crafted one.


I'm still puzzling over the two murderers, though. Perry is the one described as the unrepentant psychopath, but he did apologize before they hung him. He was also the one to think of his victims' "comfort." I hated Dick much more. The introduction to my copy of the book said that Truman Capote's friends thought he was getting way too close to Perry in his interviews, which is probably why he gets the more sympathetic portrayal. It really is a moral chiaroscuro.

At the moment, though, I'm going in the opposite direction and reading about notable humanitarians: Octavia Hill during the week and Mike Tress on Shabbos. To continue a question asked on my livejournal, what's the opposite of a psychopath? What do you call a person who's a bit out of step with society but whose stance in relation to it is not as enemy but as reformer? Shouldn't we study those people what makes those people tick just as much criminals? Then perhaps the world would have more of them.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)
An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel owner who saved 1200 people during the Rwandan massacre. I haven't read the book (I plan to), but I've seen the movie about the rescue.

If you still have any interest in true crime and accuracy in reporting, there's Columbine by David Cullen, a reporter who was on the story from the beginning. It turns out that what was said about the killers was extremely inaccurate, as Cullen found from reading their diaries.
Aug. 15th, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
I was curious about what the take on Columbine would be and read through the reviews.

This comment by "Elizabeth A. Root" sums up my thoughts
"As Ralph W. Larkin said in his book on Columbine Comprehending Columbine, being a psychopath doesn't explain why Eric decided to shoot up his school, it isn't a motive. Most psychopaths don't go on killing sprees. The bullying gives him a motive, and being a psychopath made him capable of taking revenge in such a violent way. He may have needed both to act as he did. I was bullied too, and I can understand the deep anger, but I didn't react as he did because it isn't in my nature. Having read other books on Columbine, there is simply too much evidence that bullying was a problem for Cullen is dismiss it as lightly as he did."

It's actually very common that bullies are themselves often also victims of bullying either by other students or adults in their lives. Just like many abusers were once abused themselves. Doesn't make it right. But just jumping to the assumption that the boy(s) were born killers, seems overly simplistic.

On accuracy in reporting, one reviewer points out: 'An important factor to consider is on p. ix of the "Author's Note on Sources." Cullen explains, "I often used the killers' thoughts verbatim from their journals, without quotation marks."'

That's not really accurate reporting, that's bordering on plagerism, because it's not clear what are the author's thoughts and what was written by the boys. Also, if Eric is the classic psychopath that Cullen is claiming, then he probably wrote a lot of self-aggrandizing lies in his journal. It may give you some insight into his thoughts, but it's deceptive for readers not to differentiate between Cullen reporting on Eric and Eric reporting on Eric.

Now, it does help dispel the myth that these boys suddenly snapped due to immediate bullying. The snapping wasn't sudden, and there was more than bullying involved. These boys were on downward spiral that stretched over years.

I'm not arguing that Cullen doesn't correct innacuracies, but it seems he also creates some of his own along the way.

Aug. 15th, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
On the study of postive traits, I'd recommend Why Good Things Happen to Good People maybe not exactly what you were looking for, but possibly along the right lines.

Personally, I'd say the opposite of a psychopath is an empath (no idea if that's a psych term, but it's useful). Empathic people share the emotions of others easily. Which can be a good thing, but it can also mean they are easily swept away with their emotions or other's emotions. But that focuses on how they process rather than how they act.
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