“The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan

In The Worst Hard Time, author Timothy Egan writes about “the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States” (The Guardian). In this book, he gives his audience a first-hand look into what these characters were going through during the Dust Bowl and how they survived. Egan establishes transparency with his readers by including realistic detail of before the storm, during the storm, and after the storm.

One major thing that makes Timothy Egan an incredible author is his ability to gather credible sources. As an author, this forms a strong, trustworthy insight for his readers. For example, as a student learns about the Dust Bowl in primary education, it is understood that this event really occurred in history because one always trusts an educational textbook. Because Timothy Egan’s book is not a textbook, but it discusses a traumatic event in history, he had to add more credibility to his book than a standard textbook, which he did as clearly noted in the index of his book.

Timothy Egan not only included an index in his book (p. 331-340), but he also added a “notes and sources” section (p. 315-327). In the “notes and sources” section, it explains that Egan interviewed his characters in the book by taking trips to the High Plains and then recorded his own interviews with his subjects (p. 315).

A strength of Egan’s was his wide variety of characters he included in this book. While he did include a lot of survivors, he told the specific struggles of each of them. I also like that he included authority such as the United States government, President Roosevelt, and Roosevelt’s administration. I think the use of this many characters made the Dust Bowl more believable and easier to understand because as people, we can see and feel the terror these survivors encountered.

Egan establishes his characters with his readers by giving us a first-hand insight as if we were actually there experiencing what the characters were experiencing. For example, when discussing Hazel Lucas Shaw, Egan adds a lot of description to Hazel’s move to find new land where she could safely breathe. Egan then goes on to explain how Hazel gives birth to a baby girl who dies of dust pneumonia, and Hazel could not understand how this was so because she had moved to the land of Colorado for safe air to start with. Now, this safe space was taking her own daughter’s life. Also, not only did Hazel lose her daughter to dust pneumonia that day, she also lost her grandmother. These grievances establish reality with the readers to show just how dangerous these dust storms were and how characters were losing their valuables, as well as loved ones, to nature.

In chapter six of the book, Egan adds imagery to a scene that makes the readers feel as though they are right there seeing it with their own eyes. Egan uses the example of a mob that took place at a bank. At this time, individuals made deposits at banks that they wanted back. The banks had closed, which is why these mobs broke out. As a reader, you feel as though you are actually at the scene, watching these mobs at a bank try to knock the locked doors down so they can get their money.

The most descriptive scene that stood out to me was the “blackjack” who was decapitated for murdering one of the Herztein boys, but something went wrong. The imagery Egan adds can make a reader visualize what happened to the blackjack’s neck. He explained that the execution went wrong due to some oil that was added to the noose, and the blackjack’s head snapped right off because the noose was too slick to break at the spine, as normal execution procedures called for.

In the article “Worst Hard Time” published in The Guardian, the author agrees with Egan by explaining how it was actually human action that stirred up the Dust Bowl. The author then goes on to question whether or not people will learn from their mistakes, or if they will continue to make them, which will lead to more natural disaster. The author here explains that Egan does not give answers to these haunting questions, but that “he does provide plenty to think about in his passionate but reasoned account of the Dust Bowl Days.” This made me think that Egan could have published this book in hopes that humans would not repeat their past mistakes, just as history lessons teach us. By adding literary elements to this history lesson, people will be more impacted to not repeat their past mistakes, whereas a textbook just seems to simply define that incident in the past.

Egan does blame people for the Dust Bowl, but he writes that the United States government is the factor that started it all. “But he does blame the government outright for setting the Dust Bowl’s stage: clearing the land of bison to make way for cattle, offering incentives that lured settlers to plow, stimulating wartime demands and encouraging unsustainable practices” (The NY Times).

In an interview that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt conducted with Egan, they asked him why he published the book almost seventy years later. His response was “To me, there was an urgency to get this story now because the last of the people who lived through those dark years are in their final days.” Egan explains thoroughly the consequences people deal with when they do not take proper care of their natural habitats, such as land. Egan believes that something like the Dust Bowl can easily happen again. When Egan interviewed some survivors who also fought in World War II, he said (the World War II survivors) “saw the worst kind of carnage that human beings can inflict on each other, and they say the Dust Bowl Was more traumatic.” This book serves as a lesson to warn individuals that how they treat their land can backfire on them one day and be much more traumatic and scarring than any war.








My Thoughts on “The Journalist and the Murderer” by Janet Malcolm

In The Journalist and the Murderer, author Janet Malcolm covers the story of a case between a journalist, McGinniss, and a murderer, MacDonald. McGinniss befriends MacDonald, gains his trust, then betrays MacDonald by publishing the book Fatal Vision which exposed MacDonald as guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and their two children.

In Malcolm’s book, she is very critical of journalists during the era of New Journalism. As an author, I view her as more of a hypocrite because some of her opinions are actions she voluntarily acts on herself. For example, this is a quote from her book, presented in first-person: “The rare, succulent crabmeat, picked out of the shell, packed, sealed, refrigerated, jealously hoarded, is like the fragile essence of a person’s being, which the journalist makes away with and turns into some horrid mess of his own while the subject speaks” (p. 14). Here, she is explaining the delicacy of a journalist’s subject by comparing it to the delicate crab meat. Then, she explains how a journalist manipulates his subject and makes him look worse than he actually is. I say this is hypocritical because Malcolm makes more of a horrid mess in her own work. Within her book, she is selling author McGinniss out by critiquing his untrustworthiness that he presented to his subject, MacDonald. I do not like that Malcolm is writing a book about another book. This book appears to be one long critique of McGinniss’ book, also known as “Metajournalism” rather than investigative journalism (which was usually seen during the New Journalism era). Malcolm’s work is not investigative compared to other authors during the New Journalism era such as Capote, rather, I think it presents itself as “gossip” (“A Life in Writing: Janet Malcolm by The Guardian).

If Malcolm is always “getting the story” (“A Life in Writing: Janet Malcom” by The Guardian), then I believe that she is a narcissist herself. In this book, she presents MacDonald as a “pathological narcissist,” but I think she does this because she can relate to narcissism. She is so consumed with McGinniss’ motives in this book that her desires become selfish, and therefore narcissistic. She openly inserts her views on MacDonald’s status as a murderer. She says that she agrees with the public defense attorney, Bostwick, that MacDonald is innocent. She actually does not agree with McGinniss at all (p. 95). She then goes on to explain that McGinniss made MacDonald into a boring character because he did not add any literary context to MacDonald’s character as Truman Capote added texture to Perry Smith, another murderer.

Malcolm explains nonfiction as if it is the worst thing to write about because of its limits. This is because as McGinniss was writing about MacDonald, he had to stick to his limits that MacDonald gave him to work with. She explains how MacDonald cannot be compared to any other literary character because he is that boring. She references how in In Cold Blood, Perry Smith would be a typical, boring loser if Truman Capote had not made him into something. She compares McGinniss’ work to Capote’s work and is saying that McGinniss could have really made MacDonald into something, had he tried. This brings a question to mind… if Malcolm explains nonfiction as the worst thing to write about because of its limits, then why does she go on to write this book about a nonfiction case between a journalist and murder? This is where I find Malcolm’s selfish motives to be apparent. In this book, I find her main point-of-view to point out gossip and sell out another journalist’s work.

In the beginning of Malcolm’s book, she quotes: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.” This quote is pointed out in The New York Times’ article “Was Trust Betrayed?”, which I agree with the fact that this quote that Malcolm writes is pinpointed toward McGinniss, because she finds it wrong that he betrayed his subject MacDonald. This is another reason I find Malcolm to be hypocritical because she is selling out McGinniss, just as McGinniss sold out MacDonald.

Another component to Malcolm’s writing in this book that I do not agree with is her references, also known as allusions, to other nonfiction books. A similarity to Didion’s essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem is her use of California as a way to escape to freedom. She explained how MacDonald moved to California with no remorse after losing his wife and children, as if to start life with a clean slate. This goes against Didion’s traditional wishes of what California should be. I see this as Malcolm’s opportunity to betray another journalist’s wishes, just as she has done with McGinniss’ views. And as we know, Didion has made it clear that journalists sell each other out all of the time, which is exactly what Malcolm is doing in her book. Another example in Malcolm’s work is Dr. MacDonald’s use of the diet pill Eskatrol, which induces psychosis. I see this as a parallel to the LSD used in Didion’s book, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, or Tom Wolfe’s book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

I disagree with The New York Times’ article that “her critique, no matter if exaggerated, should force all of us in the news business to re-examine our methods and manners” because Malcolm has no place to critique another journalist, because she is also one herself. Had she been the editor of McGinniss’ book, then I would say she has a place to critique his morality with his subject.

Because Malcolm not only critiques McGinniss, but also Truman Capote and other authors within this one book, I do not agree with her purpose as a journalist. As a journalist, she should report on things her subjects need to know rather than being hypocritical of things other journalists do, that she also does herself.


My Thoughts on “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin

During the 1960s, many authors wrote about ‘existentialists,’ meaning groups of individuals who wanted to be their own thing. At this time, there were two- the “psychopathic hipsters” and the “everyday Negroes” (“A Very Complex Thing: The Battleground between James Baldwin and Norman Mailer,” Matthew Clair). James Baldwin, an African American and an “everyday Negro” composed The Fire Next Time with two essays: “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” and “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind.” Within these two essays, he writes about the upheaval he dealt with as a minority and an existentialist and his social vision for America to find justice among races.  

         Baldwin’s tone is seen as ‘detached,’ according to literary critics Norman Mailer and Harold Bloom. I disagree that Baldwin writes with a detached style, rather, I think he is transparent with his audience. For example, he mentions a couple scenes where he is declined service for drinks or food. He explains how he either concealed his fury or let it explode. When he was declined a burger at a diner at the age of fifteen, he threw his glass of water at the waitress. As he matured, he became infuriated with the decline of service but did not backlash like he used to. Mailer says that Baldwin’s audience “…itches at times to take a hammer to his [Baldwin’s] detachment.” Also, Mailer takes a stab at Baldwin by saying his writings are “…sprayed with perfume,” also known as sugar coating the harsh truth. Rather than adding “perfume” to his writings, I find that Baldwin has a composed style when revealing reality he dealt with while sharing his takes on racial slurs with white Americans. On the other hand, Bloom says Baldwin comes from a place of detachment because not only was he a racial minority, but he was also a sexual minority because he was homosexual. In Clair’s essay, he explained that whites often felt inferior to blacks because of their lack in sexual dominance. If this were true, this would mean that Mailer would not feel inferior to Baldwin (which he did) as explained in Clair’s essay. I think at the time, being an African American was a much bigger issue so if Baldwin was homosexual, that would have been kept secret by him and pushed to the side.

In Clair’s essay, he mentions that Baldwin was insecure. Because he became the first prominent African American author, it would have taken a lot of confidence to put his work out there in the real world. Clair said that Baldwin borrowed money from “anyone and everyone and spent it all on booze and parties” which was his argument to why Baldwin was insecure. While borrowing money may be true, this does not make an individual insecure, just poor. Which leads me to my next point- Baldwin wrote this book during a time of social upheaval due to racism. This book still impacts modern America today, while racism still exists. For example, Steven W. Thrasher from The Guardian shows pictures that Steve Shapiro took during the civil rights movement. One photo showed a black woman holding a sign that said “Stop Police Killing.” Today, police brutality, more specifically the campaign “Black Lives Matter” still exists. “…his nonfiction work clearly has permanent status in American literature” (Bloom). In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin says “…the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation- if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women” (p.97). Baldwin’s social vision is clearly expressed in this book- he does not want blacks and whites to be separated because he wants them to unite together as a true nation. He shares harsh reality when he said “To create one nation has proved to be a hideously difficult task; there is certainly no need now to create two, one black and one white.” Baldwin is emphasizing his fear that racism causes a split in America and it may actually always be that way. Baldwin also writes these two essays to show whites what he dealt with and inspire them to never cause other blacks to go through what he went through.

Baldwin suggests one way for blacks and whites is to love each other: blacks have to love the whites and vice versa if discrimination is to be terminated. In Baldwin’s article “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy,” he calls his description of Norman Mailer a “love letter.” I think he did this to emphasize that while there was a battleground between the two of them, he still loved him. “And the great gap between Norman’s state and my own had a terrible effect on our relationship.” Baldwin said their backgrounds were not that different as they both wanted fame and money with their writings but was referring to the difference of backgrounds of sexuality. Baldwin goes on to explain that sexuality is most individual’s answer but isn’t the real truth, but it “…has to do with this man’s relationship to his own life.”

Bloom considered Baldwin to be the “most considerable moral essayist.” I agree with Bloom because of how truthful Baldwin is in his work. When he separated from his church as a minister, he also thought to give up his religion of Christianity and not just turn his back on the church alone (“The White Negro” II). This is a bold move because he wanted to show his church audience that he was not giving up on them as a group, but the religion Christianity as a whole. While this is not necessarily defined as a moral action, it is well-executed by Baldwin because he was thinking of his church body when he did this. Baldwin writes in a transparent, respectable way to his white American audience rather than a much harsher blow he could have provided.




My Thoughts on “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe

In “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” Tom Wolfe presents himself through use of first-person to his audience by telling them about the nonfiction “psychedelic movement” that was growing among young people in California. At the time, the drug LSD was legal, and was hiring participants for research.

Wolfe was a very competitive journalist, which led him to be able to write a book like this full of content that is not typical for literary journalism. Known as “The Feature Game,” Wolfe said the goal was to “get a job on a newspaper, keep body and soul together, pay the rent, get to know ‘the world,’ accumulate ‘experience,’…” (“The Feature Game,” Tom Wolfe). While Wolfe never tried LSD because he was too scared, he did a great job of inserting himself into the lives of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters to inform his audience on what the “psychedelic movement” was. The final goal is “The Novel,” which Wolfe accomplished by composing “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (Wolfe).

            In “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” Wolfe can be best known for his use of parajournalism, which means he provided entertainment to his audience, which is what readers always hope for. He was known for producing parajournalism at his best (“Parajournalism, or Tom Wolfe and His Magic Writing Machine,” Dwight MacDonald). Wolfe made “no pretense at factuality but sketching with humor and poignancy urban dilemmas one recognizes as real.” An example of this is when the cops pulls over the LSD bus after following them through the woods with Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, where Kesey proceeds to tell the officer they are “show people.” Kesey easily gets the crew out of trouble with the law, and Wolfe used this tactic to add humor to what would otherwise be a dilemma.

Another category of literary journalism that Wolfe belonged to besides parajournalism was known as New Journalism. This category applies to Wolfe’s writing because he composed a book full of reporting on a subculture of people- the hippies (Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters). “The New Journalism took its energy from the recognition of society as a tableau of interesting races, age groups, subcultures, and social classes and the detachment of the self from various conventional sources of identification” (Eason). Wolfe was a part of this subculture only because he was observing them and writing about them, but he was not actually a part of the psychedelic movement. Wolfe is simply storytelling to inform his audience of this growing movement among youth. “A New Journalism emerged in magazines and in books to give shape to many of the cultural changes while revitalizing reporting as a form of storytelling” (Eason). Wolfe contributed his writings to the era of New Journalism because of his book that fell outside the category of “hard news” (Wolfe). While LSD was pertinent at this time, Wolfe shared a story of how it was actually affecting people and what their daily lives looked like while on it.

Besides adding humor to his writing, Wolfe was known for having a realist impulse. He described it as “to show the reader real life- ‘Come here! Look! This is the way people live these days! These are the things they do!’” (“The New Journalism and The Image World,” David Eason). When Wolfe originally meets Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, Wolfe becomes mystified and wants to spend lots of time with them to see exactly what it is they do. He became “puzzled over their style of life” (Eason).

Regarding the psychedelic movement of young people, Wolfe shares with his audience how this movement is also transforming into a religious movement. Ken Kesey, the “de facto” of the Merry Pranksters, was seen as a god among his peers. He was a student at Berkeley who had many talents and offers right and left. Because of his status, others saw him as prophetic. Not only is Wolfe presenting what is currently going on during this trial of LSD, but he is also leading his audience into the future of where these young lives will go. He “furnishes the most elaborate explanations, explanations that link the contemporary to a well-ordered, nonthreatening past that promises to extend into the future” (Eason). Because Wolfe writes about drugs in a way that seems safe and not completely threatening, it is as though he writes about his subjects to show the movements that come along with this crowd, not necessarily to inform his readers of the harm LSD is known for in today’s time. “The drug culture, symbolized by Ken Kesey and his Pranksters, may appear to be a multitude of styles and symbols with no apparent meaning, but it is actually only a new manifestation of an ancient religious impulse and the group an elementary form of religious life” (Eason). I agree with Eason that the movement of LSD does not really symbolize anything, rather, it just manifests into another movement that a young group will lead.

I think Wolfe is trying to focus more on California lifestyles just as Joan Didion did. He is showing how times change periodically, and it always seems that California starts a movement that will then travel across the rest of the U.S. “The diversity of California lifestyles may suggest the loss of a common culture, but they are actually only diverse expressions of a culture transformed by economic expansion that spread the idiosyncratic lifestyles of the upper-class throughout society” (Eason). The economic expansion in this case is led by the FBI legally (LSD research), and a factor such as this can alter a culture. But at the end, traditional values will still exist, mixed along with new movements, which causes a culture to diversify itself.

Tom Wolfe took a serious topic (the experimentation of LSD), and reported it in a way that did not stress the audience. “I can get the message without having it watered down into banal language or dressed up with throat grabbing urgency” (“The Personal Voice and the Impersonal Eye,” Dan Wakefield).

My Thoughts on “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion

Joan Didion reflects on her personal past in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” through a collection of numerous essays. She was subjective in her storytelling (“What Followed”) which can be seen as unprofessional as a journalist because it appears that she finds others she writes about to be inferior compared to her, and it is hard to decipher the truth as a reader if what she is writing about is credible since it is her own opinion, and not necessarily factual.

During the 1960s, drugs were running rampant throughout the Haight in California, which Joan Didion herself experienced. By using other characters’ tragedies when drugs were being used, Didion inserted herself through first-person literary journalism. These tragedies portray Didion’s feelings toward mishaps that often occurred during this period such as suicides, car wrecks, divorces, etc. Because she wanted to remember what it was to be her old self (“What Followed”), she told a story to her readers about how close she was to the edge in her past life. Her personal opinions apply to every scenario in all of the essays encased in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” which makes her work subjective and quite possibly not credible. Throughout these essays, we can see her resistance to closure as California transforms. She is unable to move on from Old California to New California. I see this subjectivity as Didion’s way of trying to make peace with her past. However, Didion adds a lot of subjective details that are hard to discern as either a truth or a lie. Just because she is subjective, I do not think that gives her the opportunity to undo some details that seem deceptive for readers.

In Michiko Kakutani’s article about Joan Didion that was featured in the New York Times, she mentioned that Didion’s tone is “unsentimental.” I find this to be false because in a lot of these essays, Didion is nostalgic in her mood and her tone. In her essay “Goodbye to All That,” she talks about her younger twenties and her move to New York. When talking about her instinct of what New York would be, she said “…and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard sung and all the stories I had ever read…” (“Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” p. 226). She recognizes that her transition from California will be quite hard and is sentimental to say goodbye upon her arrival to New York due to songs and stories she has heard previously. Didion’s use of first-person takes us as readers into her feelings. In “On Epidemic Personism,” Herbert Gold said, “In the fantastic heart of writers there is always the temptation to justify, to brag and confess, to make their own immortal souls the prime issue for everyone else.” Gold’s statement is true of the sentimentality Didion provides for her readers. She opens her heart in her essays a lot, even though you cannot always feel for her because the scenario she explains does not seem so terrible.

Another example of Didion’s subjectivity applies to the bride in “Dreamers of a Golden Dream.” She says the bride is wearing an “illusion veil.” To readers, this can be seen as harsh judgment because this “illusion veil” portrays that the bride is blind to what is in front of her. I do not find this to be making fun of the bride, but rather satirizing weddings overall because marriage is never what people expect it to be. In Kakutani’s article “Joan Didion: Staking Out California,” she explains how Didion has seemed to be fixed on failures of life and marriage since she was young. Didion’s first book was about failed marriage, so I think it is important to realize that Didion is not being harsh with her marriage views, just the thought of marriage itself consumes her which is why she writes so much about it. She writes another essay in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” titled “Marrying Absurd.” She explains the wedding culture of Las Vegas and how cheap it is to get married. She inserts a lot of pessimism in her essays about marriage, which shows the readers that at one time in her past, she dealt with a failed relationship.

In Didion’s writing about how California has transcribed, it is obvious that she is sentimental to the era of her childhood. She writes about California as though it is a mythical place. To Didion, California was her whole world. In the reading “What Followed,” Didion’s writing was described as “the phenomenal world she is reporting on.” Even Kakutani says California was Didion’s place. Through her description, we see Didion reporting California to her readers as she knew it. When explaining how prominent drugs were during her time, she wrote about a scene when a three-year-old set fire in an apartment. She said the hippies who resided did not even notice “because they were in the kitchen trying to retrieve some very good Moroccan hash which had dropped down through a floorboard damaged in the fire” (“The Struggle for Articulation and Didion’s Construction of the Reader’s Self-Respect,” Paul Heilker). At this time, people’s priorities were different with drugs in mind.

Didion also writes about her social status in what was known to be “Old California.” She was an educated female with class and wealth. In “The Courage of Her Afflictions” by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Harrison finds Didion to be putting people down for their social status. I do not agree with this because Didion is being sentimental for what California used to be, and unappreciative for what it turned into. Didion’s rhetoric throughout her essays portrays that she sees new California as fake, compared to when it was full of order, civilization and values. Didion sees new California as a loss and writes about what has changed it and how it dies in the essays “I Can’t Get That Monster Out of My Mind” and “On Mortality.” Rather than seeing Didion’s writing as judgmental, we should appreciate her nostalgia for the place she used to know.

My Thoughts on “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, he embarks on a journey of presenting a non-fiction story of a well-respected but “inconsequential” (Amy Standen) family who was slain for unknown reasons. He does so by creating four parts of a book that include the details he accumulated from multiple interviews. Capote establishes credibility with his audience by providing factual evidence, recurring themes, symbolism and oxymorons.

It is often argued that Capote has a “failure of imagination” (George Plimpton) within In Cold Blood because he used factual evidence rather than first-person literary techniques. I disagree that Capote was not creative. He includes strong imagery within the factual evidence which provides readers a chance to envision everything that happened in the time frame prior to the murder, the actual murder, then the trial and execution. Capote said, “Also, it is necessary to have a 20/20 eye for visual detail–in this sense, it is quite true that one must be a ‘literary photographer,’ though an exceedingly selective one” (Plimpton). Capote selectively adds detail where it is fitting in this book, such as including the thoughts of the murderers, Perry and Dick, as they ended all four lives of the Clutters. Out of empathy, it is more than readers want to know, but have to know because of human nature. Because Capote interviewed all of the characters without a recorder, he nails the description of being a “literary photographer” as an author.

Alvin Dewey is a character within the book who is labeled as the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s lead detective in solving this murder case. “Furthermore, for all Dewey’s experience, some Garden City, Kan., residents are critical of his relationship with Capote and how that affected what ended up in the book” (Kevin Helliker). Because Capote was able to build a well-established relationship with Dewey and his family, critics believe the relationship may have altered the way Capote wrote In Cold Blood. I do not agree with this, but rather I think Capote was an individual who built relationships with all interviewees out of a place of empathy for the trauma that was occurring during this case. Critics also said that Capote seemed to be the only one “…in belief that Dewey was the case’s hero” (Patrick Smith). I find this statement incorrect because a lot of the public knew the amount of stress Dewey went through to find the murderers. Dewey was admired by many and not alone by Capote because he was known for solving 14 of 16 murder cases he worked on (Smith). The details integrated within this book from the work between Capote and Dewey helped readers comprehend this murder case even more- not only did we see what the family was going through, but the investigators as well. Capote includes detail of how Dewey studied the images of all four Clutter members intensely for a period of time. At one time, Dewey’s wife sees the photos in their home setting, to which she responds, “I wish I’d never seen them” (Capote, In Cold Blood). Capote also goes on to explain how not only the Deweys, but other Holcomb families were uneased by this murder and extra paranoid of their own safety at the time of not knowing who did it.

Throughout In Cold Blood, Capote uses recurring themes of religion that are symbolic of stories in the Bible that readers are able to relate for better insight. While critics claim the “immaculately factual” (Helliker) evidence in the book is less than imaginative, I find the parallel between religion and the secular world to be brilliant. For example, Capote repeats that Mr. Clutter starts the day with an apple, which is symbolic of knowledge that Eve would acquire in the Bible by eating from “the tree of life.” When Mr. Clutter would eat an apple, he was inviting evil into his life. This means he could see right from wrong.

Capote included a lot of oxymorons for the characters. For example, the two murderers’ upbringing tells readers opposite of what we would think. Perry, who was the more delicate murder of the two, grew up in a rough home life of alcohol and abuse. At the time of the murder, he tried to make the deaths more delicate for the family members. He put a mattress box under Herb. When his partner wanted to rape Nancy, he drew the line there and would not allow it. “His (Capote’s) accounts of Perry’s small, paradoxical kindnesses to the doomed Clutters, like when he places a pillow under Kenyon’s head before putting a gun to his temple, are a hundred times more effective in describing the tumult of emotions in a criminal’s mind than an expert’s analysis could ever have been” (Standen). This explains that this detail of Perry’s original rough life proved itself opposite during the murder. For Dick, he had a safe upbringing. He was smart, athletic, had offers to play college ball, had a couple of girlfriends but never did more than kiss. Now at the time of the murder for him, he is more ruthless and is sexually attracted to young females and wanted to harm Nancy. After all, he is the main leader of this murder because he was determined to find Mr. Clutter’s safe. He was stable in his younger days, and now a traumatic head injury has turned him astray.

Another oxymoron that Capote cohesively included was the establishment of how the Clutter family was well known in Holcomb. He explains how Mr. Clutter is a religious man who is committed to his ill wife. Mr. Clutter represents a “man’s man,” (Capote) while his daughter is a role model for younger girls. Nancy is discussed as a respected female who does well in school and is notorious for her baked apple pie. The murder of the family was a bad thing that happened to good people.

Capote provides credibility with not only factual evidence, but literary techniques that broaden the horizon of a non-fiction novel.








My Thoughts on “Hiroshima” by John Hersey

In John Hersey’s book “Hiroshima,” he writes in third-person. Considering the scenario of history presented here, I find it very impressive that he leaves his own voice out of this work. As a reader, it feels as though you are there experiencing the trauma with the characters and also going through the aftermath and healing process. One way Hersey gives his audience the chance to feel for the characters is through very descriptive imagery. In “A History of American Literary Journalism,” Asch said Hersey falls into the ‘descriptive’ category because he “achieved the pose of a neutrality of tone- leaving it up to the reader to draw his own conclusions” (p. 185). Of course every reader will feel sorrow for the tragedies that happen within “Hiroshima,” but each reader will draw his own conclusion(s). For example, Hersey explains in the last chapter of “Hiroshima” the scars survivors had as “hideously ugly, thick, itchy, rubbery, copper-red crablike growths” (p. 102). For readers, we picture how horrid these battle wounds appear but can almost imagine what they feel like, too.

Hersey created this work where readers are able to “see” people and events, just as Lincoln Steffens did when he wanted to create a new kind of journalism (Connery, Thomas. “A Third Way to Tell the Story”). This differs from traditional journalism that seems to only record, report and interpret because Hersey does not interpret the bombing of Hiroshima, but rather takes his readers step by step through the lives of six, average residents of the city who encounter the bombing. Traditional journalism prioritizes facts and uses an inverted pyramid, but “Hiroshima” has a story that remains important until the end. Much like the article written by Sam Ward (Thomas Connery) that was very disliked because it was “not news,” Hersey, too, created a literary work where the people were real and the events had just happened. Much of Hersey’s writing is hard to interpret as a reader who has never been through a tragedy such as this. Like Hutchins Hapgood’s work, Hersey’s work also “went beyond journalism’s facts but stopped short of fiction” (Thomas Connery). The events prior to the bombing and the events to follow are interpreted through a narrative point of view.

The way Hersey develops the six characters throughout the book falls under the category of literary journalism. In the beginning, Hersey gives a character’s introduction as to what they are doing before the bomb drops. He even gives descriptive detail as to what steps they took (such as “taking the next street car”) that saved them from being closer to the bomb that saved his life (“Hiroshima,” p. 2). Throughout the rest of the book, we see what characters encounter as the bomb drops, the family members and friends lost, the injuries they dealt with, then what their lives look like when trying to make things “normal” then how their lives develop after the catastrophe subsides. In “A History of American Literary Journalism,” Hersey’s work is considered “probably the best known journalism work of the post World War II period.” This is because of the detail behind these six characters’ lives during this time of what they were seeing while going through this misfortune. For example, Father Kleinsorge in the book befriends two children who could not find their mother. Hersey goes on to explain that Father Kleinsorge attempts to distract them by playing games or changing conversation topics, but as time goes on, the children begin frequently yelling out of distress for their mother to return. The whole time, Father Kleinsorge knew the children’s mother was dead.

My favorite part of this book is chapter five, when Hersey subtitles every couple of pages with each of the six characters individually. This is where resolution after conflict is developed. In the article “Dissent” by Dan Gerstle, Hersey is known for doing more than to “recreate the atomic bombing in an empathetic and stylistically innovative way.” He also helped create literary journalism because this book is “recreating the event rather than disinterestedly reporting events.” Hersey did this by detaching his tone from the stories of these characters. He probably did this to remove his emotion. The layout in chapter five, although written forty years later, is very substantial to the book overall as it guides readers through how these characters’ lives develop after the bomb. For example, Mrs. Nakamura goes from barely making enough money for food alone, to then getting two new jobs, then seeing all three of her kids get married. Her son Toshio takes care of her and gifts her a new sewing machine after she lost her husband’s, who was a former tailor who had lost his life to an “honorable death” in Singapore. At that point in her life, she knew she had hit her lowest point. But after all of her kids are happily married and she is financially eased, she take up embroidery, makes dolls and goes dancing once a week. This is just one example of how the six characters form a better ending after seeing how the bomb had taken a toll on her family’s life.

While reading chapter five, I found it interesting how there was a subtitle for Father Kleinsorge, but then Hersey went on to discuss Father Takakura without a subtitle. My instinct about this choice is that Hersey had a large emotional attachment to Father Takakura, and was unable to differentiate objectivity from subjectivity as he did with the rest of the characters (“A History of American Literary Journalism”).

A critic of Hersey’s said that “Hiroshima” failed to “bring home” the horror the Americans caused the Japanese because of his detached tone (“Politics”). I do not agree with this since the reader is able to infer his own conclusion regarding the bomb placed on the Japanese. In another article, Hersey’s “impersonal” writing regarding the characters makes the occasion appear unimportant (“Frus”), but I disagree with this because of the horrific detail involved in the six characters’ lives.


Berlin, Germany

To finish spring break, I headed toward Berlin, Germany, in hopes to get a better idea of past history and explore Germany’s capital.

At first, I went into the city with a close-minded idea that it was going to be depressing, but was very surprised at the liveliness and beauty Berlin has to offer. I left with an attitude of gratefulness that I was able to learn more about the Holocaust and indulge myself in German culture.

What I Visited:

(1) The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum

While the colors are rather dull, they are full of stories of Jewish history everyone should learn about. This is such a surreal experience to examine art that is dedicated to the lives that were lost during the Holocaust.

There is also a long hallway in this museum that has remains of belongings that have been salvaged that tell stories behind the individuals or families they belonged to.

(2) Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The weekend we visited Berlin it was freezing and slightly snowing, but standing in the line in these weather conditions to visit this museum was so SO worth it.

I loved the set up of this museum. As you walk through the entry hallway, there are stories of the Holocaust from beginning to end hanging on the walls.

The next room you enter are written notes (originally German, but then translated in English to the side) from loved ones talking about their journeys of migrating to find safety, work, etc. Warning you now- this was the most emotional part of the museum.

Then, there is another room that has stories of individuals or families and talks about their journey through the Holocaust.

(3) The East Berlin Wall Art Gallery

Quote from the East Berlin Wall Art Gallery

Upon arrival of the East Berlin Wall, I was shocked to see all of the beautiful color it was painted with. In my mind, I pictured an off-white brick wall, but I was wrong!

East Berlin Wall doves
East Berlin Wall gate with locks

P.S. my pink, fluffy scarf is on sale! Just under $10-  H&M Blush Pink Fluffy Scarf

Shop my favorite lip stain here: Marc Jacobs “Shush, Blush”

(4) Brandenburg Gate

What Else to See:

(1) Reichstag Building

This is Germany’s Parliament House. While you’re visiting the Brandenburg Gate, go ahead and see this phenomenal building right behind the gate!

(2) Checkpoint Charlie

I didn’t have much time while I was in Berlin, but if I visit again I’ll be sure to go here!

(3) Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz

These are both city squares that are stunning with beautiful skyscrapers.

What to Eat:

(1) All kinds of pizza from Social Salami Club

I happened to be there on a Thursday night, when they were running a special where each slice of pizza was only €1.

The way it works: they cook multiple pizzas, then you go to the counter and pick which one you want.

The staff is extremely sociable, so you’re sure to have fun while you’re there! It’s a rather small restaurant, but so worth going in!

(2) The Barn Cafe:

I had a soup (not sure what the name is) and a slice of orange cake- the cake was my favorite! Of course I had a flat white, too!

Soup from The Barn Cafe
Orange Cake from The Barn Cafe

(3) Shiso Burger:

I had a chili lemon burger – highly recommend!

Chili Lemon Burger with angus beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, ketchup, cilantro & lime-mayo chili sauce

The presentation here was also very cute- your burgers and fries came out in separate, circular, cardboard frames.

(4) Hopfingerbräu im Palais

I had curry wurst and potatoes with mayonnaise. I’m dying to learn how to cook German food now! Also, I know french fries with mayonnaise sounds so unappealing, but I’ve made a habit of it now and won’t be able to break it when I get back to the States!

(5) Reichert Bakery

Everything in here is to die for. I can’t spell or pronounce anything, but I got some kind of strawberry cheesecake. I don’t think it’s possible to get anything you won’t like!

Thanks for reading,




This may be a bit of a lengthy post, but rightfully so. Paris is an incredible city that deserves lots of love, so here goes:

(1) Luxembourg Garden:

This is a gorgeous park you MUST take a stroll in. There’s a pond where kids have sailboat competitions, families play bocce ball, the list goes on. It’s a large park, so you can spend quite a bit of time there.

(2) Crepes at Au P’tit Grec:

This is a street stand where you grab a crepe and go. Both times I went, there was quite a long line, but well worth the wait.

My first one was a “Savoyarde,” which had potatoes, Raclette (Savoy cheese), country ham, lettuce, tomatoes and onion.

Savoyarde Crepe

My second one was the “Crepe du Chef,” which had coppa (Italian ham) mozzarella, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, and I requested to add potatoes (great idea).

Crepe du Chef (with added potatoes)

(3) The Pantheon:

All along I thought the rave about the Pantheon was about the one in Rome, but turns out there’s a Pantheon in Paris, too.

Pantheon in Paris

(4) Notre Dame

It was quite popular on a Saturday night, but still had to get a picture in front!

Notre Dame + Me

(5) Starbucks:

I know what you’re thinking- “Why Starbucks in Paris?”

Honestly, I have been missing my go-to order back home: a blueberry scone and a flat white. Except this time, it was just a coffee with milk and nutmeg, and a blueberry muffin. Still a VERY happy me!

A blueberry muffin and a coffee with milk and nutmeg.

(6) Tuileries Garden:

Paris knows how to do parks. Tuileries Garden is another stunning place for a stroll and time with family and friends!

Ferris wheel at the Tuileries Garden

(7) Eiffel Tower:

The Tuileries Garden is very close to the Eiffel Tower, so if you visit one or the other, be sure to go ahead and visit both!

Eiffel Tower + Me

The night before my friends and I left, we went to the Eiffel Tower to watch it twinkle for a proper goodbye to Paris. The tower begins sparkling at 10 p.m. and sparkles on the hour for 5 minutes!

I suggest stopping for a savory crepe somewhere around the Eiffel Tower- I got a nutella and banana crepe!

Nutella & Banana Crepe at the Eiffel Tower

(8) Avenue of Champs Elysees:

This is a mile long strip of all of the most incredible things you can think of- Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Perfumeries and Macaroons, you name it!

I had Pierre Herme macaroons and they were so good because you had the option to have two flavors instead of one! I had raspberry with pistachio (“Montebello”), then Madagascar chocolate with dark chocolate (“Ultime”).

They also came in the cutest little origami boxes!

Pierre Herme origami boxes

The “Montebello” flavor was my favorite!

“Montebello”- Raspberry & Pistachio

(9) Arc de Triomphe:

Once you finish walking the strip of Champs Elysees, be sure to check out this monument!

(10) Le “Relais de l’Entrecote”:

Bottomless steak and fries, anyone?

This restaurant is a total tourist spot, but so SO worth it!

Bottomless steak + fries!!

(11) Midore:

If you have the chance, you must go to this bakery! While I was there, I got a baguette and the most incredible slice of chocolate chip flan. Wish I had some right now!

Midore Chocolate Chip Flan

(12) Fromagerie Cheese Shop:

This is a small cheese shop that was located right next to our airbnb, and it had the prettiest selection of cheeses! I got goat and gouda cheese, peach and blackberry yogurt, and rice pudding. Isn’t it the cutest?

Fromagerie Cheese Shop

(13) Louvre Museum:

I had no idea how massive this museum is! This is my favorite thing I have EVER DONE!

I love the organization of the museum. I saw the sections of Islamic art, Spanish, Italian, Grecian, Egyptian and Mediterranean. And yes, I did see the Mona Lisa. And yes, it is way smaller than I had hoped for!

(14) Shakespeare & Company Bookstore:

This is a beautiful, two-story bookstore with all English books.

(15) Museum d’Orsay:

Head here to see Picasso’s art, Degas’, Monet’s and Van Gogh’s.

(16) Centre Pompidou:

This is such a fun, modern museum. You can’t miss it by its looks on the outside- a bunch of HUGE tubes!

(17) Rodin House:

Besides the Louvre, the Rodin House was my second favorite thing to visit in Paris. Rodin completed lots of sculptures during his time and this museum houses all of them. While you’re there, be sure to take a walk around the garden, too, and enjoy a cappuccino!

(18) The Palace of Versailles:

You can take a train from Paris to Versailles and back for under $10! The Palace is absolutely stunning, as is the courtyard. Be sure to check out Marie Antoinette’s estate as well!

Don’t forget to treat yourself to Laduree Macaroons!

Raspberry, Pistachio, Vanilla, Caramel, Rose, Dark Chocolate and Lavender Laduree Macaroons

Thanks for following along,





Edinburgh, Scotland

A medieval town with the addition of a new town, Edinburgh is the perfect city to visit for a weekend.

If you decide to go during springtime, be sure to bundle up. I spent the first weekend of March here, and I arrived to a thick layer of snow and saw more snow fall during my three days there.

Photo Credit: Katherine Penney

Patagonia Parka: If there’s anything I’ve learned about being cold, I feel best when my backside and bottom has some extra length to it! This parka is from last season, but I linked a similar one. The one linked has a hood with it, which I wish mine had!

J. Crew Jeans: I love these jeans because they’re thicker than your usual denim and keep you warm. They stay right in place, too! I’m 5’4″ and they hit at the perfect place on my ankles.

Boots: These are a classic pair of light brown, heeled boots that I have on in this photo that did keep me warm, but were NOT hiking-friendly for Arthur’s Seat (I’ll talk about this later).

Boots I DO suggest for snowy Edinburgh: I have these boots in the color “sand,” and they are insulated with sheep’s fur on the inside, keeping your feet SUPER warm without the need for thick socks. MAN, do I wish I would have had these packed with me! These have laces so you can loosen and tighten them as needed, which is nice if you need to tuck your pants into the boots. Also, the tracking on the bottom is excellent to keep you trekking through slick and snowy areas.

Beanie: I just have on the classic CC beanie, with a detachable pom on top. A layer around your ears is necessary to keep you from completely going crazy in the cold!

Friday, March 2:

After settling into our hostel, we set out to explore Arthur’s Seat. This is a beautiful set of hills located in the “Old Town” of Edinburgh.

And this is why I mentioned earlier that I made a mistake with the boots I was wearing- they were NOT hiking material. I tried to hike as far as I could, but let’s just say I didn’t exactly make it to the top.

Partially up the largest hill – Photo Credit: Katherine Penney

If you visit Edinburgh, don’t make the same mistake I did by packing the wrong shoes. Make sure you pack hiking shoes so you can make it to the top and experience the full outlook over the city! Partially up the hill will still give you a beautiful view, anyway.

If you’re able to visit when there’s snow around, I highly suggest gathering your family and friends and taking a few sledding boards. I saw so many families out pushing each other around and it looked like so much fun!

I also suggest taking a snack and possibly a hot drink with you. I stopped at a little cafe, Holyrood Coffee Shop, which was between our hostel and Arthur’s Seat.

Photo Credit: Katherine Penney

I got a hot, fruit tea with a mixed berry scone. I loved this little place so much that I did go twice during my short stay!

Mixed Berry Scone & Hot Fruit Tea

After finishing our hike, my friends and I decided to do a little shopping to warm-up. We found the cutest vintage shop called W. Armstrong & Son. There are three locations in Edinburgh, and we made it to two of the three. I was so impressed with this shop because of the organization. They had a section of sweaters, blue jean jackets, leather jackets, kilts (of course), even wedding dresses and much more!

For dinner, we ate at The Last Drop. At this point, we were all so cold that we wanted to stay right around our hostel. I highly recommend staying at Budget Backpackers in Edinburgh because of the great location and great price (per person per night ranges anywhere from €9-€14).

The Last Drop has such a neat history behind it- it’s all about a young girl named Maggie who was on trial, hung, and then survived for 40 years after the hanging. The waiters here were very friendly and the restaurant provided a great atmosphere.

I had a lentil cottage pie, which was a lentil and vegetable pie topped with sweet potato and carrot mash, served with a side salad.

Side note: I’m not really sure why it was called a “cottage pie” because there definitely wasn’t cottage cheese in it- in case you were worried/grossed out!

Also, The Last Drop has GREAT cappuccinos!

After dinner, we ventured out to find some dessert, and ended up at Vittoria Restaurant.

I had the sticky toffee pudding, which was topped with hot toffee sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was excellent!

Sticky Toffee Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with a waffle crisp

Saturday, March 3:

To start the day, we began with breakfast at the Filling Station. I had french toast with fresh berries on top and a berry compote sauce. I also had a hazelnut latte (I’ve been deprived of hazelnut and french vanilla creamer while in Italy)- it was so yummy and a taste of home.

Filling Station French Toast with fresh berries & a berry compote sauce

Next, we took a Sandeman’s Tour of “The Royal Mile.”

If you’re in Europe and are looking for affordable tours, I highly suggest these tours.

The way it works: they are technically “free,” but at the end, you tip your tour guide whatever you found the tour to be worth. These tours are typically anywhere from 2-4 hours, and you can easily spot them at the meeting location with their red umbrellas.

P.S.- I stopped at a Starbucks before the tour to have something hot while I was walking through the cold. I had a matcha tea latte (and added a bit of sugar). I highly recommend trying it! It’s a nice switch up (and healthy too).

While on our tour, we stopped at the Grassmarket Centre. Ironically, this was right across from our hostel.

At the cafe, I had a chai masala tea and a raisin scone.

Grassmarket Centre- Scone with raisins

Lunch: Olly Bongo’s. This was a cute, small restaurant with lots of different options. I had a baked potato with chili, a side salad, and cole slaw.

I also needed an afternoon pick-me-up, so I had a cappuccino there as well.

Cappuccino at Olly Bongo’s

After lunch, we visited the Scottish National Gallery. Bonus: free entrance!

I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I visited a catfe while I was there. I’ve been missing some animal time! We went to Maison de Moggy and it was a nice way to stay warm.

Cost: £8 for one hour. While you’re there, you can order dessert and coffee.

Sunday, March 4:

I went back to Holyrood Cafe for breakfast, and had a cappuccino and a blueberry muffin.

Hollyrood Cappuccino
Hollyrood Blueberry Muffin

After that, I did some souvenir shopping throughout The Royal Mile.

For lunch, we went to The Elephant Room, which is where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration to write the Harry Potter series.

I wrote my post cards here and enjoyed a flat white and a chicken pot pie with brown gravy and mashed potatoes.

Chicken Pot Pie with brown gravy & mashed potatoes
Writing post cards at The Elephant Room

This is a place I HIGHLY suggest eating if you go to Edinburgh!

Thanks for reading along with my travels,