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Subject: Diis' Recent Reads... Questions for the Well Read. rss

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David Dixon
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So, inbetwixt all else I've had going on recently (a soldier arrested for murder, a change of command and all that entails, work, more work, and more work) I've managed to read two books recently, and have some questions for those who've read them as well.

First off, I read Pynchon's _Mason & Dixon_. Wow. That was one hell of a book. His best, at least of the ones I've read (Gravity's Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, and V.). I've posted earlier on my somewhat Quixhotic attempts to find a meaning in Pynchon's post-modern writings, because some part of me thinks there is one, but with _Mason & Dixon_ I was just along for the ride. I found it refreshing just to have Pynchon tell a story (albeit in his own absurdist way), but was amazed at the feeling the very end of the book produced.
Pynchon's other works do not inspire in me any sort of sentiment or emotion, more like a world-weariness or a sense of wry, ironic humor, but the end chapters dealing with Dixon and Mason's final years apart and their eventual deaths I found incredibly moving--a fitting, if sad end to the oddyssy of their friendship. Until I read it, I would have believed Pynchon capable of a lot of things, but emotion was not one of them.
Thoughts from fellow Pynchon readers?

Secondly, I read Truman Capote's _In Cold Blood_. (I'm on a quest, by the way, to read something by every "great" American writer, which explains my meandering reading tastes). I do not like "true crime" stories, in general, because I find them tawdry and I do not wish to peer into the depths of the human soul and find out what depravity we are capable of--I've spent over two years in Iraq and I've seen all the depravity, tragedy, blood, and horror I care to.
I'm saying that to say that I was predisposed not to like this book. And I didn't, but not for the reasons I listed above. Capote was a master, and every "true crime" magazine article I've ever read is an attempt to imitate the style of _In Cold Blood_, but they don't come close. I didn't like the book in the same way I didn't like the film Shindler's List--it is an incredibly powerful work that I have no desire to ever see again.
_In Cold Blood_ in the hands of someone lesser than Capote would have been a sensationalist tale that exploited readers' emotions (the book is, after all, about the murder of a family of four in small-town Kansas), but Capote is even keeled, and sparse where necessary (for instance, rather than quote every sick detail of a convicts' deviant sexual history, Capote leaves off and says that "after this, Hickman described several encounters" and then moves along), and yet all the while putting the reader uncomfortably close to the victims and the criminals alike.
I've never read a book that made me feel the way this one did, and I'm still wrestling with what exactly that feeling is.
The most eerie thing is that in two people I know, I recognize a lot of traits the psych doctors saw in the two killers. This is not my mere pop-psychology analysis, either--in my professional capacity I see psychological evaluations of my soldiers that are leaving the service due to misconduct or mental illness. One of those soldiers whose diagnosis looked a lot like the killers is in fact in jail for stabbing and killing a man after an argument at a party--he was diagnosed with "severe personality disorder with suicidial and homicidal tendencies" and was already scheduled to leave the Army under a mental health discharge (with benefits) the Monday after the weekend in which he killed a man.
All in all an incredibly sobering, powerful book that I'll never ever pick up again.
Anyone else read this one and been similiarly affected?

Diis

[Edit for spelling.]
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Majik Mouse
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I have not read any Pynchon, but I have read In Cold Blood and had exactly the same reaction. I also have no stomach for crime novels or the equivalent television/films, and for much the same reasons. I have no interest in seeing that part of humanity, however much I may be well aware it exists. I say that as a person who has, in comparison to your situation, lived quite a sheltered life, so I can certainly see how the feeling would be far stronger for you.

You are exactly right, however. It is precisely the lack of sensationalism that makes the book so simultaneously effective and disturbing. I am very glad I read it; I am equally certain that I will not read it again.
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The Steak Fairy
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I read In Cold Blood when I was eleven. Very disturbing. Also, as long as you're editing things for spelling, "quixotic" has no 'H' and doesn't get capitalized. Also, the film is Schindler's List. It appears that I failed to note the proper spelling of "odyssey," as well. This whole editing for spelling thing is more work than it's worth. I think "like the killers" should have a possessive apostrophe in there after the 's', too. I'm going to have to pull the trigger on "inbetwixt," too. I'm sorry. It's just over the stop stylizing.
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Goo
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I read Mason & Dixon when it first came out, so it's been a while. I actually don't remember it very well and was hoping to read it again someday. Your sentiments sound familiar, though. I remember it had more heart than GR, V, or CoL49.

I know there are a few Pynchon fans here on BGG. You may want to try the post again with Pynchon and Capote in the title to flag their attention.
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Mystery McMysteryface
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I've read In Cold Blood and found it to be disturbing on a number of levels. The criminal psychotic nature of normal looking and acting folks living among us........that we don't know about!! Also, the selection of the victims, based on incorrect information from a former employee of the family. The methodical way in which they approached and carried out the crime, with very little deviation, thought, or idea of the consequences.

Spooky, makes you want to lock your house up day and night and not trust anyone!!!! Made me feel vulnerable and unsafe and scared. Not a good way to feel!!!!!

I have read other crime novels and have read more details about killers that are much more psychotic (I think?) and weird than these 2. But again, Capote doesn't reveal too much in the book and we can only guess. But Leopold & Loeb? Way more bizarre/sick!!!!!
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Joe Gola
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I was very choked up on the last page of Mason & Dixon. I dare say I damn near shed a tear. Even just thinking about it now has got me feeling sad. Something about loss...the past, childhood, fathers and sons...or a vision of a half-magical, wild 'n' woolly America that seems to be gone forever.
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David Dixon
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MisterCranky wrote:
I read In Cold Blood when I was eleven. Very disturbing. Also, as long as you're editing things for spelling, "quixotic" has no 'H' and doesn't get capitalized. Also, the film is Schindler's List. It appears that I failed to note the proper spelling of "odyssey," as well. This whole editing for spelling thing is more work than it's worth. I think "like the killers" should have a possessive apostrophe in there after the 's', too. I'm going to have to pull the trigger on "inbetwixt," too. I'm sorry. It's just over the stop stylizing.


I shall try to do better in the spelling department next time for you. As to your claim of "over the top stylizing:" it should be "over-the-top", first off; and secondly: no, it isn't.

Or, conversely, next time I just won't edit for spelling...

Diis

PS: By the way, I'm looking for a good editor for some things I'm working on, and you seem to meet the qualifications:
a) a good critic
b) a good speller
c) willing to bring the point home hard
d) someone who has plenty of time on his hands...
Need work?
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The Steak Fairy
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You mean "edit for spelling" wasn't a request? Okay, my mistake.

Edit: Oh yeah, and look how many times I had to edit my supposed-to-be-humorous post in order to catch all the typos and gotchas! Clearly I'm not particularly good at the whole pedant thing, try though I may.
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The Steak Fairy
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Diis wrote:


PS: By the way, I'm looking for a good editor for some things I'm working on, and you seem to meet the qualifications:
a) a good critic
b) a good speller
c) willing to bring the point home hard
d) someone who has plenty of time on his hands...
Need work?


I do have plenty of time on my hands, but somehow when somebody actually WANTS my help I rarely have any to give. I think that in these days of readily available spell check programs my occasional ability to ferret out typos is pretty worthless. Besides, we'd just disagree about stuff like where to hyphenate figures of speech and where not to, and then Ludocrazy would show up with her professional copy editing credentials and lambaste both of us.
 
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David Dixon
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MisterCranky wrote:
You mean "edit for spelling" wasn't a request? Okay, my mistake.

Edit: Oh yeah, and look how many times I had to edit my supposed-to-be-humorous post in order to catch all the typos and gotchas! Clearly I'm not particularly good at the whole pedant thing, try though I may.


By the way, I took your post to be in a humorous (sp?) vein--my comments about you being an editor for me was supposed to be in a similiar one...

No offense taken, and none meant, I guess is what I'm trying to say...

Diis
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The Steak Fairy
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Oh thank God, because I was actually worried there for a moment that somebody who reads and enjoys Pynchon, an author who is historically as far over my head as an author can be, would actually seek any editing help from me. I really screwed up the whole joke I was trying to set up in this thread, but I blame how tired I was all morning long when I first decided to try and bait you. Oh well, at least you got to see the really lame punchline.
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