Tick tock, pop, and sinking lifeline: A Review of ‘Mrs. Kelly’s Monster’

What’s the first impression about the following time sequence?

It’s 6:30 a.m. / 7:15 a.m. / It is 8:25 a.m. / It is 9 o’clock. / It is 9:20. / The time is 9:36 a.m. / It is 9:54. / It is 10:01 a.m. / It is 10:40. / It is 10:58. / It is 11:05 a.m., the day of the monster. / The clock says 12:29. / At 12:53 … / It is 1:06. / The clock … says 1:40. / It is 1:43, and it’s over.

Seem a bit too scattered, and obscure? What if with the additions of the following onomatopoeic ‘pops’?

With each heartbeat a loudspeaker produces an audible popping sound. The steady pop, pop, popping isn’t loud, but it dominates the operating room.

It is 8:25 a.m.  The heartbeat goes pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute, steady.

The chatter of the half-inch drill fills the room, drowning the rhythmic pop, pop, pop of the heart monitor.

The microscopic landscape heaves and subsides in time to the pop, pop, pop of the heart monitor.

The heart monitor continues to pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute, 70 beats a minute.

The carotid twists and dances to the electronic pop, pop, popping.

The heart monitor pop, pop, pops with reassuring regularity.

The heart monitor goes pop, pop, pop, steady.

In the background the heart monitor goes pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute, steady.

The heartbeat goes pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute.

Pop, pop, pop …

… …

The tick tock on the clock echoes the pops of heartbeat, threading the overall story of Mrs. Kelly’s Monster.

The story was written by Jon Franklin in 1978, depicting the process of a brain surgeon by Dr. Ducker to cure Mrs. Kelly of an aneurysm – ‘the monster’ – which has long agonized her, ending in that ‘the monster won’.

With vivid, but concise descriptions, the author gradually pulls readers in, showing how Mrs. Kelly had suffered over the years before she made the final decision to take the surgeon, a hard one on which she staked on life.

Delicate, vivid details of the whole operation bring readers to the scene, even to hearts and minds of Dr. Ducker: Readers could almost see Mrs. Kelly’s ‘crescent’ scalp, skulls, and the ‘monster’ under operation and how Dr. Ducker operates through the ‘journey’; also could feel is his almost meticulous concentration and fragile nerve throughout the process.

Running through is the ‘tick tocks’ of clock and ‘pops’ of Mrs. Kelly’s heartbeat when fighting the monster, which tightens the story as well as reader’s heartstring, shadowing nervousness, excitements and jitters upon readers’ heart. Using the ‘tick tocks’ and ‘pops’ as a string, the author almost manages to control the heartbeat of readers by a simple pull, until it comes to the final collapse when ‘the monster won’.

Tick tock.

Pop.

Tick tock.

Pop.

… …

Until a unanticipated, gigantic collapse:

The point readers finally realize what the onomatopoeia symbolize:

A sinking lifeline.

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Book review: In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

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Picture from the Internet

Reviewed by Eileen

On November 15, 1959, a family of four in Kansas was savagely murdered in their house. Given the slightest hints of details, the scene can be terrifying to imagine, even after half a century has passed. Those who first got the news were overwhelmed by sympathy for the victims and horror against the brutal, cold-blooded culprits.

However, imagine the mindset of someone who might sympathize with the criminal. You might be astounded and doubt whether such a person could ever possible exist. Capote did, at least from certain subtle, elusive perspectives.

Truman Capote, an established American author, serialized the story in ‘The New Yorker’ as he investigated the murder.

After six years’ tracking and investigation, having conducted numerous interviews with the criminals, he went so deep into the case and came out with “In Cold Blood”, the in-depth, yet thought-provoking non-fictional novel based upon the real murders.

Unexpected to most readers, no bloody, terrifying scene has been painted, not even hinted. Instead, the writer records experience of the two criminals throughout the entire investigations. Perry Smith, 31 (when he committed the crime) was one of the two murderers, also the major character depicted. As the case developed, a multi-faceted Smith – image, personality, psychology, etc. – gradually takes shape and extends in readers’ minds. The retrospective descriptions of his youth and growth are stealthily incorporated, yet invisibly unfold a different Perry in readers’ minds, as a average person with a miserable youth, rather than a labeled criminal. It also helps to change the attitude of those who have been horrified by the cruel murderer, to show how he has hesitated, struggled, agonized – the hard psychological journey, or rather torture. As you read through, there might even be a passing thought to be mentally on his side, though soon vanishes as you find it extremely guilty and unfair to the victims. However, it did appear! That’s what Capote brings to the readers in the book.

Whatever happens, there might be many facets to view it; however a person is, he/she is unlikely to be born to be this way; whenever reminiscent of the past, there is always something lingering; whichever phase or situation you are through, there is at least someone observing, even feeling intimacy with you, though he/she might be at a distance.

In Smith, Capote saw the reflection of himself as they share similar experience: broken family; abandoned lonely childhood …. He went so far as to once observed, “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front.”

Immersed and involved psychologically in to a great extent, Capote came up with insights into the violence from a novel angle, hinted his position against sentence of death, and most significantly, suggested another perspective of looking into human nature.