Tuesday, August 25, 2009

225. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

June 2009
History: Published in 1958. Capote was also unsuccessfully sued for libel and invasion of privacy by a Manhattan resident named Bonnie Golightly who claimed that he had based Holly on her. But she was an overweight forty-year-old woman and lost the lawsuit without much effect. But in truth the person that Holly most resembles is her creator.
Plot: The novella tells the story of a one-year (Autumn 1943 to Autumn 1944) friendship between the main character, Holiday ("Holly") Golightly and an unnamed narrator. The two are both tenants in a brownstone apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Holly Golightly (age 19-20) is a Texas-born country hick turned New York cafe society girl, who makes her living coaxing dollars off of rich, older gentlemen. The narrator, who lives in the flat above her, is an aspiring writer. Golightly, who likes to stun people with carefully selected tidbits from her personal life or her outspoken viewpoint on various topics, slowly reveals herself to the narrator. She was married at age 14 to a Texan who had many children, and soon left to move to NYC. She entertains various aquaintances in her apartment, and eventually settles on Jose, from Brazil, and plans to marry him, and is early in pregnancy. Then she is arrested, under suspicion for being an alliance to Sally, who is in prison. She loses the baby, and escapes to Brazil. She sends a postcard to the narrator, and that is the last he hears of her, except that, in a few years (this is part of the beginning of the book) he hears from the bartender, Joe Bell, who found a photo of a man in Africa, holding a sculpture he had carved of Holly. This is never confirmed.
Review: The novel showcases Capote's talent for writing comedy touched with remorse. The book is clearly meant to be a character sketch of Holly Golightly. She is hard-headed and smart-mouthed, but at heart she is a romantic, looking for that little slice of perfection typified by the calm majesty at Tiffany's. Holly is an elusive spirit, a woman difficult to pin down, her emotions and past alternately worn on a sleeve and deeply hidden. She is beautiful and sad, adventurous and free. Capote captures Holly beautifully, and the confusion and yearning of the people around her.
Opening Line: “I am always drawn back to places I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.”
Closing Line: “African hut or whatever, I hope Holly has too.”
Rating: Okay

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