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I’ve just finished reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, a seminal work that merges true-crime journalism with literature.  If you haven’t read it, or another book like it (I recommend Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), then it’s an interesting style that I highly recommend.

First, as always, I need to mention how I’m in no way qualified to comment on a book like this.  You have to assume that significant underlying themes go unnoticed by me.  But, nevertheless, I feel like writing these pieces helps me to better understand what I’ve just read.  You’re job, as the reader, is to catch me on mistakes and suggest your own interpretations.

That being said, I want to first draw attention to the nuanced narrative Capote created.  The level of detail present is staggering.  He knew the town of Holcomb and its inhabitants so well he was able to draw in everyday occurrences as significant thematic devices.

For instance, towards the end of the book, Perry Smith found himself gazing out the barred window of his cell while enduring his trial.  Capote created an image of two tomcats roaming the town, plucking dead birds from the grills of cars.  The metaphor was unmistakable: two free cats, surviving by their wits to scrape by, street savvy but unable to better themselves.  Just like Perry and his compatriot Dick Hickock.

There was an outright sadness throughout the end of the book.  When desperation gave in to acceptance of the inevitable on the part of Perry, you can’t help by question your assumptions of his actions and the events that led up to his incarceration.  Which, of course, was part of Truman’s goal: to show the aftermath of the heinous crime on both the town and the killers themselves.

There’s a lot more to say about In Cold Blood, but I’ll stop here for now.  I read through the entire book in about 3 days – an exceedingly short time for me.  But it was a book I found I couldn’t put down.  It created a different level of suspense: not one of “what’s about to happen next”, but one of “I don’t want to know what happens next, but I must”.  Very interesting.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been very interested in eBooks.  I’ve just finished reading Freakonomics, a fascinating look at the “hidden side of everything”.

One of the most intriguing was the unintended consequences of abortion on the rate of crime in the US.  The authors traced the significant drop in crime in the mid 90’s back to the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade, and found that the single most important impact on crime ever had was in preventing a large number of would-be criminals from existing.

Think about that for a few minutes.

Now, think about the consequences this has on so many aspects of life.  Are so-called pro-life people still so willing to restrict the rights of abortions even though it will mean an increase in crime, which can affect them?  Shouldn’t there at least be some acknowledgment of the weighing of pros-and-cons of abortion and crime?

Personally, I’ve always been conflicted about the abortion debate, but usually find myself on the pro-choice side.  Having been brought up Roman Catholic, I owe it to my personal upbringing to consider the pro-life side seriously.  Of course, it always comes down to a matter of “faith”, rather than one of hard facts, which makes choosing a side impossible (or, at least, it would seem impossible to me; many people don’t seem to have a problem choosing a side, which is endlessly fascinating).

Crime is one of the most troubling scourges of the modern world.  I’m distinctly in the “law-and-order” camp: I support increasing the number of police (which, incidentally, was the only other major contributing factor to the drop in crime rates).  The two top priorities of any modern society should be the eradication of disease and crime.  And in both cases, effective means of combating both require innovative and here-to-for undiscovered techniques.

For one thing, fighting crime usually comes in two flavors: increased prison terms as a deterrant, or increased education/outreach programs to remove the allure of crime.  Neither is a solution, and neither is particularly effective without the other.  But there are other dimensions to the problems, and I think the abortion debate is one of those.  When people are able to acknowledge the impact abortion has had on the crime rate, in sober terms, then we can have progress on reducing crime overall.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been absolutely engrossed in a series of eBooks.  First, I tried Dracula by Bram Stoker, a Project Gutenberg book, inside my Barnes and Noble desktop eReader.  I also moved to the iPhone with it with great results.

I originally gave eBooks a try as I’ve been fascinated with the new nook eReader.  I’ve followed the Kindle and found it interesting, but something about the nook really took my interest.  It’s similar to the Kindle, but seems to have just the right mix of features to make it especially appealing.  I’ve placed an order, though unfortunately they’re backordered through early January.  I took another look at the Kindle in an effort to see if I could get as excited about it as I am about the nook, but to no avail.  Something about it just doesn’t do it for me.  I’ve kept my order with the nook and I’m excited for when it will arrive.

After finishing Dracula, I moved on to other books.  Next up was The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.  I had read The War of the Worlds several times in the past, so I thought I’d give this book a try.  I was stunned!  A very quick read, but absolutely enthralling.

After that, I went in search of something equally quick, and read through The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.  I own a paper copy of the book, but never actually read it.  Going through it quickly on my iPhone, I found it quite interesting.  Especially the parallels with modern business management.  I’m positive I’ve seen books in the bookstore about applying to today’s business world.  I’ll have to keep my eyes out for an interesting eBook on the subject.

After The Art of War, I read The Invisible Man, also by H.G. Wells.  It too was a great read, and I was inspired throughout to reimagine how an visibly-challenged individual could get by in modern society.  I really enjoy Wells’ writing style, and I’ll return to his other books soon.

Right now, I decided to take a break from reading fiction and instead turn to the non-fiction world, with the very popular Freakonomics.  I’m very glad I did.  It’s a fascinating book, which I’ll be talking about at length on this blog.

If you haven’t, try an eBook.  It’s gotten me to read far more than I have via paper, primarily due to the access.  If you have it on your iPhone or computer, then you’re unlikely to be away from it at any point in the day.  During some down time, you can quickly pick it up and start reading.

There’s an interesting review of a new app for the iPhone, called the Colossal Short Story Collection, which boasts an impressive 2,222 short stories from the public domain all contained in one downloadable app.

Unlike the review’s author, I haven’t had a problem reading eBooks on my iPhone.  In fact, I’ve finished three books recently on the iPhone alone, and several others as a combination of my desktop reader and the iPhone.  Although a lot of “flipping” is involved, it can actually be therapeutic: during slow points in a book, the flipping makes you feel like you’re reading faster!  The presentation of text on the screens also hasn’t been a problem, though after reading for a while, my eyes get a bit near-sighted and I need to adjust again.

I’ll check out the app when it’s available in the App Store, though I’m not personally a short-story kind of person.  The idea of an app for “casual reading” is definitely intriguing though.

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