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In warm weather

I'm reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood at the moment for a book group, and it's very good – although I wasn't sure at first: the recreation of the final moments of the murdered family is decidedly creepy. I have a couple of quotations; the first is from a letter written to one of the killers, Perry Smith, by his sister. In it she tells him:

IT IS NO SHAME TO HAVE A DIRTY FACE – THE SHAME COMES WHEN YOU KEEP IT DIRTY.

She herself thought this was an important point because not only does she put it in capitals, she repeats it further down the page.

And secondly, what does this remind you of?

On the cover of the second notebook, the handwriting of which he was so proud, a script abounding in curly, feminine flourishes, proclaimed the contents to be 'The Private Diary of Perry Edward Smith' – an inaccurate description, for it was not in the least a diary, but rather a form of anthology consisting of obscure facts ('Every fifteen years Mars gets closer. 1958 is a close year'), poems and literary quotations ('No man is an island, Entire of itself.'), and passages from newspapers and books paraphrased or quoted. For example:

'My acquiantances are many, my friends are few; those who really know me fewer still.

'Heard about a new rat poison on the market. Extremely potent, odourless, tasteless, is so completely absorbed once swallowed that no trace could ever be found in a dead body.

'If called upon to make a speech: "I can't remember what I was going to say for the life of me – I don't think that ever before in my life have so many people been so directly responsbile for my being so very, very glad. It's a wonderful moment and a rare one and I'm certainly indebted. Thank you!"

'Read interesting article Feb. issue of Man to MAn: "I Knifed My Way to a Diamond Pit."

'"It is almost impossible for a man who enjoys freedom with all its prerogatives, to realize what it means to be deprived of that freedom." – Said by Erle Stanley Gardner.

'"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is a breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset." – Said by Chief Crowfoot, Blackfoot Indian Chief.'

Halfway through it at the moment and looking forward to the second 150-odd pages.

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Categories: Literature, Quotations
  1. Tess R.
    4 September 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Hello. I was wondering where you obtained a copy of Perry Smith’s so called “private diary.” I saw the movie Capote, with P. S. Hoffman and there was a scene in which the diary was shown, also a scene in which Hoffman, as Capote, reads from it. I’m not totally sure if Capote was making fun of Smith or not. Where, can I get a copy, do you know?

  2. 4 September 2006 at 3:19 pm

    The quotations above come from Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. (My review is here: http://captainmaybe.wordpress.com/2006/06/30/review-of-in-cold-blood-by-truman-capote/) It should be, as they say, available in all good bookshops. I have no idea whether Perry Smith’s diary has been published – I would have thought not.

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