Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

It’s brilliant and effective, yes, but it’s ultimately just the story of how two vile egoists (even Capote’s powers cannot make them into sympathetic characters) butchered a decent family. It’s more interesting as a cultural artifact than as a piece of literature per se. For instance, Capote provides a portrait of the rural Bible Belt culture that influenced my own childhood context. The Clutters are teetotalers, gravely serious about religion, the closest thing to aristocrats in a community neither academic or urbane yet practically intelligent and fiercely concerned with honor and virtue. [Read More]

Reynolds' Discourses on Art

Reynolds’ Discourses are like a Westminster Confession of Faith for classical Western art – a formal expression of received ideas offered at the final moments of those ideas’ influence. The introduction to my edition called Reynolds’ theories a “coda” to an age of art about to give way to Romantic individualism. That seems about right. Some thoughts on the passing pages… Reynolds agrees with Johnson that studying by inclination is best. [Read More]