Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nonfiction, Nonfun?

AKA: True crime only fueled my paranoia. And yet... I liked it?

So, at this big interview thing, my interviewer (seems like bad word choice) asked me what genre I disliked the most. And I just blurted nonfiction. I don't know, I guess I was thinking of my social studies text book (which does include tidbits of fun; like really fancy people in the middle east used to have parties where people would admire their super expensive, imported tulips, at night, by candlelight. Candles on top of turtles. Yes.). But generally, that book is awful. The lady tries to butter me up, talking about this book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. It's about a shipwrecked Olympian runner who fought in World War II.
We were selecting nonfiction to read for Lit, and for who knows what reason, I started looking for In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. I saw Unbroken near by, and honestly, it looked so much better. But In Cold Blood is a classic, and I felt like impressing my teacher by subjecting myself to reading it in a ridiculously tight timeframe.
The book takes place in the late fifties to mid sixties, so it'd be a lot of fun. Except, the book starts out from the perspective of the Clutter Family (alternating between a religious father, Herb Clutter, a quiet fifteen year old son, Kenyon, a popular sixteen year old daughter, Nancy and a mother with depression, Bonnie), and then to the perspective of Perry Smith, and Richard Hickock, their murderers, as it recounts the last day of their life.
After that it goes from the alternating perspective of the killers and the detectives.
The thing about the book is that... when you read a good fictional book, you are pulled into a different world. And when you read nonfiction you're generally aware that it's the real world. It's weird that for me, this means that nonfictional people- real people- are the two-dimensional ones, they're dead and gone, or they exist in a world that's unnatainable to you, but that you are still aware of... so I don't care. They're doing what they do... or did what they did, and unless they say or do something really prolific I don't feel like I'm the one keeping them alive (Yeah, apparently I am a host for parasitic fictional characters).
But in In Cold Blood I felt like I was keeping the Clutters alive, and more powerfully than that, that I was keeping Perry Smith alive. It was said that Truman Capote fell in love with Perry Smith. Half of the book is actually from Perry's perspective. This man is a killer. A heartless killer. And no one lies about that. He's despicable. But this book explores the other facets of the human personality. It's a book that doesn't objectify people to a single aspect of their personality.
I'm not one to sympathize with killers, out of the blue, or because of a 'troubled past'.  And at the same time, I wanted to cry at Kenyon and Nancy's childish naivety. The Clutters were portrayed as truely as possible, and as wonderful people. So you read this book and you have these conflicting emotions. A good family that you feel like you knew, was killed. And for forty bucks. So you want justice, but at the same time, you see Perry as this abused child who still wets the bed, cries, and sucks his thumb. A boy who was treated unjustly because of his ethnicity, a friendless, loveless man who dreams of traveling the world. A musical genius who loves little kids, who declares no prejudices, whose fingers are stained with paint and loves animals.
After I read this book, I haven't looked at recent mass murderers and thought, 'That guy just needs a hug', and sometimes when I was reading the book I had to pause and think, 'This isn't fiction. These people are evil'. Have you ever wondered how you would feel if a friend was a murderer? You felt like his friend. A friend of the murderer and the murdered. And it tears you apart a little.
So Nonfiction can be fun. And traumatizing? Maybe. OH! I finished reading Looking for Alaska, by John Green, speaking of traumatizing. It was great! I'm super sorry I waited so long to post anything. I'm a terrible person. But I hope that this convinced you to... read a book about your friendly neighborhood mass murderer. If it did, then my job is done. Bye!