By pure coincidence, in the last couple of months I’ve seen two movies based on Truman Capote’s life at the time he wrote the book IN COLD BLOOD: Truman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Infamous starring Toby Jones. Both excellent movies. Hoffman had the more difficult role because he had five or six inches on Capote and didn’t really look that much like him. However, he did an amazing job of capturing the angst of a writer trapped by his ambition.


The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote agonizing over what he knows he must do to get the story.

Writing about an actual crime must always bring angst. Will you get the details accurately? How will the victims be affected by what you write? No doubt there are cold-blooded writers and journalists out there who put their own ambitions above the feelings of those affected by what they publish, but, both these movies suggest Truman Capote was not one of them. However, he was keenly aware that in order to finish his book (which he called a“nonfiction novel”) the killer he’d come to know would have to die. He also knew that his book would have more authenticity if he could pry the details of the Cutter family’s seemingly random slaughter out of a death row convict. Not an easy job.  It would take Capote four years to cajole and dance his way into the man’s heart and soul until finally gaining his trust. His passion to create a masterpiece overrode any moral objections to duping someone into believing that you care about them when all you really care about is improving your story.  Of course, there’s no way of knowing how Capote actually felt but as the appeals process dragged out the execution day, he was forced to face the ghoulishness of the situation and his own “cold-bloodedness.”


I know writers who believe that this sort of ambition, this willingness to sacrifice all – including one’s self-respect – is necessary to write great fiction. I must admit when I create a character based on a real person, I shudder and stammer and fall all over myself with dread. I don’t have it in me to befriend someone just so I could expose their story to the world, even for that coveted Best Seller status. What do you think? Are there limits beyond which you will refuse to go?  Or, in the pursuit of art are there no limits?

The Ghosts and Sillies of Christmas

I’ve spent most of the holiday season recuperating from a pre-Thanksgiving tumble onto a stone floor. I don’t know about you guys, but accidents tend to make me reevaluate where I’m going. It’s as if the universe has given up getting through to me on any other level and just throws me to the ground. I’m not sure which way I will go in the coming year, but here is a re-post from many year’s ago when Ye Olde Blog was fresh.


In my opinion (which you can take or leave) the best Christmas stories don’t include a visit from Jolly Saint Nick.  They are stories you can read any time of year and enjoy.

Below are quotes from my favorite Christmas stories.  See if you can match each quote to its author:  Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, James Joyce, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Conan Doyle, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Dickens or O’Henry. (Hint: many of the quotes come from just one author or rather poet.)

Illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger. Extra credit if you can name the story!

1. Favorite intros:

a. “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. “

b. “Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago.”

Also by Lisbeth Zwerger and in the same book.

2. Favorite Metaphors:

a. “Bells the children heard, were inside them…”

b. “The postman with a rose on his button nose…”

c. “Mittens made for giant sloths…”

d. “Making ghosts with their breath…”

e. “Uncles breathing like dolphins…”

3. Lines/scenes I wish I’d written:

a. ‘”The goose, Mr. ####! The goose, sir!” he gasped.

     “Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off through the kitchen window?”

From bing images

b. “Oh my,” she exclaims, “it’s fruitcake weather!”

c. “What would you say if two hippos were coming down the street?”

4. This is the way I feel after last minute X-mas shopping:

Lisbeth Zwerger

“There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”

4. Best Endings:

a. “It [the snow] was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

b. “And what is in there?” he asked, pointing to a closed door.

Andrei drew himself up at attention, and answered in a loud voice: “The hot douche, your Excellency.”
Image from

c. “That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.”

d. “Your loving Santa Claus Whom people sometimes call “The Man in the Moon””

5. Let the sobfest begin! “And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.”

The answers here.