READING MURDER BOOKS AND TRYING TO STAY HIP
I finished In Cold Blood yesterday. The portrait Truman Capote paints of these killers is chilling in its matter-of-factness. Once the pair hit death row and meet other killers, whom Capote introduces the reader to in detail, a sense of normalcy almost settles over the proceedings. Like, this might as well be a book about plumbers. These boys just happened to kill, like a job they got simply because there was an opening. There are many juicy quotes from these murderers that would make splendid epigraphs for "I hate the world" treatises. "It's a rotten world...There's no answer to it but meanness. That's all anybody understands--meanness. Burn down the man's barn--he'll understand that. Poison his dog. Kill him." To which his partner added, "Anyway, anybody you kill, you're doing them a favor." Thank goodness I didn't read this book in high school!
Not that I'm now inspired with murderous fantasies or anything, or that I missed how horrible and chilling the events in the book are--but there is something compelling about these hard men drawing an unwavering line in the sand, something alluring. Ronnie York and James Latham, the boys quoted above, had a sort of cheerful camaraderie, and a primal belief in themselves--I imagine these things sucked Capote in, as well. It's hard to decide whether or not he truly enjoyed writing these characters more than the regular citizens, including the victims. There is an "aw shucks" apple pie overtone to his descriptions of the Clutter family that makes you wonder if their appeal for him wasn't a little kitsch. Or perhaps by showing the normalcy on both sides of the prison bars, on both ends of the shotgun, he was really making the point that the divide between isn't very wide.
Capote's prose has a taut lyricism that achieves the right mix of distance and sympathy. Given Truman's large personality, it's a remarkable achievement that he never really inserted himself into the narrative, only even referring to his own existence once or twice (and then, as "this journalist"). He ends up being an intangible witness, moving through the story without judgment, letting the participants have their say and, for the most part, leaving it at that.
I want to see the movie of In Cold Blood again. If nothing else, just to marvel at the strangeness that Robert Blake plays the charmingly psychotic Perry Smith, the runt who was angry at the human race for never letting him grow up. If you listen to Blake talk, to the bitterness about being a child star, typecast by his fame, there are eerie echoes.
Finished Gravitation 8 on Thursday, and proofed half of it last night. Turning it in Monday, a week early.
N.E.R.D.'s Fly Or Die is the first real musical disappointment of the year. While the two versions of their debut, In Search Of..., were unpredictable and inclusive, this sophomore disc is repetitious and insular. The hiphop element is almost completely gone, as are the off-the-wall soundscapes or inescapable hooks that the Neptunes are known for. With the exceptions of "Don't Worry About It" and the barking single "She Wants To Move," the music industry's leading beat makers don't even bother to come up with an impressive drum riff or anything but the most basic rhythms.
Instead, each song is constructed around half of a single musical line, and then repeated for 3 to 6 minutes until the song is over. Take "Backseat Love." Its parts are one guitar strum, steady but unenergetic pounding, and chanting; its sum is not very much at all. Pharrell's singing has no scope to it. The melodies all go straight ahead, and the range of his fantastic croon is almost entirely absent. He sings like a two-lane highway splitting a flat prairie. Where are the curves? Where is the scenery? Overall, Fly or Die sounds like they set out to make a punk record but accidentally recorded each song in the tempo and length of funk. The result is music that wears out its welcome without ever finding a groove. Depressing.
Current Soundtrack: Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Catalogue, N.E.R.D. Fly or Die - listen to a stream here