Based On True Events A Glance Into The Nonfiction Novel Genre

1276 words - 6 pages

“The best nonfiction recognizes the impossibility of perfect representation, the dream of the 1:1 ratio,” (Sharlett). What Jeff Sharlet means in this quote is that facts cannot be perfectly represented, regardless of any type of imagery or descriptions, so a good nonfiction work uses only what is needed to get the message across. Beginning in the 20th century, many nonfiction writers would even look towards fiction for the resources to describe what was considered impossible to describe (Taylor). One way writers have been able to do this is through nonfiction novels. A nonfiction novel is a narrative, of book-length, that unfolds actual events and actual people written in the style of a novel (“Nonfiction Novel”). This style of a novel implies that the book being spoken of can be looked at as art as well as fact (Sharlett). In the mid 1960’s, a nonfiction novel journey began, beginning with the narrative journalistic qualities of Truman Capote, continuing with the story telling of such authors as Norman Mailer, and then continues to stay constant throughout present day literature with works like Katherine Boo’s display of immersion journalism.
Truman Capote is said to have invented this new genre in 1966 with, what some call his finest work, the book In Cold Blood (“Truman Capote”). In Cold Blood details the 1959 murders of Herbert Clutter, his wife, and two of their children (Wikipedia). Even before the murderers were captured, Capote decided to travel to Kansas and write about the quadruple crime (Wikipedia). This nonfiction novel represents the genre well, primarily because it was based on approximately six years of research, including interviews with the neighbors and friends of the victims and even the two captured murderers (“Nonfiction Novel”) In Cold Blood also represents nonfiction novels by telling the story through the view of various “characters” while the author attempts not to distort facts or insert his own comments (“Nonfiction Novel”). “The enemy was anyone who was someone he wanted to be or who had anything he wanted to have” (Capote). This a perfect example of how to take known facts and word them to make it interesting. Capote had interviewed the murderers and they had confessed to him how they felt, but he wrote this sentence as if he was inside the mind of the murderer and knew exactly what he was thinking. Instead of bluntly stating facts as nonfiction pieces of literature had done before, Capote intrigues his readers.
Intriguing as a nonfiction novel may be, it is a very hard writing process to master. With a claim as big as the one made by Capote, who claimed every bit of his story was true, there will always be someone willing to prove the claim false. While In Cold Blood did bring many praises from the literary community, some began to question the reports as written in the book (Wikipedia). Phillip K. Tompkins, a writer in 1966, noted certain discrepancies on the accounts after he traveled to Kansas and spoke to some...

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