Truman Capote and the Suspicion Following Extreme Self-Confidence

If Marcel Duchamp challenges art and reality blatantly, Truman Capote does so perhaps unintentionally.

In Cold Blood is a book that’s allegedly one-hundred percent true. The quotations and facial expressions and settings were captured in Capote’s astounding memory and transferred to the page with perfection. Allegedly. Hundreds of hours of interviews with the novel’s protagonists, murderes of the Clutter family in small-town Kansas, conducted without note-taking or recording, made their fragmented way into the book’s contents without destruction or even mistaken articles or prepositions. Allegedly.

Capote had a bit of an ego.

By making the claim that In Cold Blood is a document filled only with the purest reality, the reader is immediately skeptical of the work’s, to use Stephen Colbert’s word, truthiness. It’s only a representation of reality, after all. It’s a secondary source. It’s a depiction of what happened in the real world.

Further, it’s a story in a book. Whether or not it immortalizes the horrific murder of an innocent family, the words on the page come from Capote’s mind. It is a story written in his voice—a sort of stolen reality, if you think about it as a subject appropriated for art (and, knowing the party-boy Capote, fame). The reality is Capote’s.

But then, all reality is subjective, and all art is representative of that subjective reality, so art is two-times removed from the truth.

Published at See Gauge Blog on March 21, 2013.


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