Tomemos left a couple of relevant comments in response to my first two entries; since Blogger doesn’t have a system for showing comments and their responses, I’m (quite happily) obliged to answer here.
First, Tomemos pointed out that “Folsom Prison Blues” is about the desire for freedom, contra Klosterman, since it contains the lines “I know I can’t be free / But those people keep movin’ / and that’s what tortures me.”
To be honest, the real value of Klosterman’s observation, for me, was that I was reminded that “Folsom Prison Blues” is a song about a murderer. Klosterman’s identification of the man’s thought with the fact of his crime shook me out of some sort of Cash-worshipping daydream in which we all go to Reno, and shoot people just to watch them die.
I would elaborate only by pointing out that Cash’s narrator isn’t like Perry Smith in Capote, who is actively studying the law and hoping for a successful appeal. That is, in a literal sense, a man who desires his freedom. Cash’s character commits the murder for no reason (he is playing with guns, despite his momma’s warning), but he also commits it because it is his destiny. He has to go to jail and he has to stay there for life; Cash, a free man, can write about prison without hypocrisy because, in his stark Christian view of things, sin and perdition are inevitable on earth.
This fatalism — seeing the world as a prison, and crime as the fundamental tendency of the soul — makes Cash’s killer finely attuned to the briefest of pleasures. I think Klosterman was fudging by giving such a short excerpt; however, this could be what he means when he says that the killer just wants coffee.
Tomemos also pointed out that Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry is shot, not beaten to death. I was blurring Matthew Shepard’s story with the film; anyhow, many thanks for the correction.