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Parenthetical Details in Capote's Place Description

Passage from Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood"


Parenthetical Details in Capote's Place Description

Truman Capote (1924-1984)

Novelist, story writer, and reporter Truman Capote is best known for In Cold Blood (1965), a "nonfiction novel" about the slaughter of a Kansas farming family in 1959. In these three paragraphs from part one of In Cold Blood, Capote offers a brief history and description of Garden City, Kansas, site of the trials of the two murderers. Observe how the author frequently interrupts his sentences (with parentheses) to insert factual and illustrative details.

from In Cold Blood*

by Truman Capote

The distance between Olathe, a suburb of Kansas, and Holcomb, which might be called a suburb of Garden City, is approximately four hundred miles.

A town of eleven thousand, Garden City began assembling its founders soon after the Civil War. An itinerant buffalo hunter, Mr. C.J. (Buffalo) Jones, had much to do with its subsequent expansion from a collection of huts and hitching posts into an opulent ranching center with razzle-dazzle saloons, an opera house, and the plushiest hotel anywhere between Kansas City and Denver--in brief, a specimen of frontier fanciness that rivaled a more famous settlement fifty miles east of it, Dodge City. Along with Buffalo Jones, who lost his money and then his mind (the last years of his life were spent haranguing street groups against the wanton extermination of the beasts he himself had so profitably slaughtered), the glamours of the past are today entombed. Some souvenirs exist; a moderately colorful row of commercial buildings is known as the Buffalo Block, and the once splendid Windsor Hotel, with its still splendid high-ceilinged saloon and its atmosphere of spittoons and potted palms, endures amid the variety stores and supermarkets as a Main Street landmark--one comparatively unpatronized, for the Windsor's dark, huge chambers and echoing hallways, evocative as they are, cannot compete with the air-conditioned amenities offered at the trim little Hotel Warren, or with the Wheat Lands Motel's individual television sets and "Heated Swimming Pool."

Anyone who has made the coast-to-coast journey across America, whether by train or by car, has probably passed through Garden City, but it is reasonable to assume that few travelers remember the event. It seems just another fair-sized town in the middle--almost the exact middle--of the continental United States. Not that the inhabitants would tolerate such an opinion--perhaps rightly. Though they may overstate the case ("Look all over the world, and you won't find friendlier people or fresher air or sweeter drinking water," and "I could go to Denver at triple the salary, but I've got five kids, and I figure there's no better place to raise kids than right here. Swell schools with every kind of sport. We even have a junior college," and "I came out here to practice law. A temporary thing, I never planned to stay. But when the chance came to move, I thought, Why go? What the hell for? Maybe it's not New York--but who wants New York? Good neighbors, people who care about each other, that's what counts. And everything else a decent man needs--we've got that, too. Beautiful churches. A golf course"), the newcomer to Garden City, once he has adjusted to the nightly after-eight silence of Main Street, discovers much to support the defensive boastings of the citizenry: a well-run public library, a competent daily newspaper, green-lawned and shady squares here and there, placid residential streets where animals and children are safe to run free, a big, rambling park complete with a small menagerie ("See the Polar Bears!" "See Penny the Elephant!"), and a swimming pool that consumes several acres ("World's Largest FREE Swim-pool!"). Such accessories, and the dust and the winds and the ever-calling train whistles, add up to a "home town" that is probably remembered with nostalgia by those who have left it, and that, for those who have remained, provides a sense of roots and contentment.

Selected Works by Truman Capote

  • Other Voices, Other Rooms, novel (1948)
  • "A Christmas Memory," short story (1956)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's, novella (1958)
  • In Cold Blood, nonfiction novel (1966)
  • Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote (2007)

* Truman Capote's In Cold Blood was serialized in The New Yorker magazine in 1965, published by Random House in 1966, and reprinted by the Modern Library in 2002.

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