The well-known short novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and three of Truman Capote's most famous short stories make for a continually fresh and exciting look at how human beings successfully connect with one another. No matter how many times you read these stories, you will be moved by Mr. Capote's marvelous sense of and appreciation for the specialness of each life and the ways we belong to each other. Having not read Breakfast at Tiffany's for about 30 years, I came away much more impressed with the novel than I was the last time I read it. Perhaps you will have the same reaction upon rereading it as well. If you are reading it for the first time, you have a very nice surprise ahead of you!
Breakfast at Tiffany's revolves around Holly Golightly, the former starlet and cafe society item, who floats lightly through life (like cotton fibers in the wind) looking for where she belongs. Ms. Golightly is and will remain one of the most original and intriguing characters in American fiction. Like a magician, she is both more and less than she seems. But she has an appreciation for people and animals that goes to the core of her soul that will touch you (if you are like me), especially in her desire that they and she be free.
The novel has a harder edge and is more revealing about human nature than the movie is. Of the two, I suggest you start with the novel and graduate to the movie. You will appreciate the portrayal by Audrey Hepburn of the inner Holly more that way. The same humor is in both the novel and the movie, as well as the innocent look at life for what it can be, believing in the potential of things to work out for the best.
Despite that upbeat note, her weakness is that for all of her ability to understand what motivates other people she does not understand herself well enough to know when she does belong with and to others. This is symbolized by her abandonment of her unnamed cat, and quick realization that they do belong together. As for the friends she leaves behind, she never seems to appreciate how much they love her and want to be with her. As a result, she abandons them as well . . . leaving them with memories to warm their winter nights.
Mr. Capote is now realized to have been a more autobiographical writer than was appreciated when he first published his fiction. Your understanding of Breakfast at Tiffany's will grow if you keep in mind that it was modeled in part on his friendship with Marilyn Monroe. If you do not know her history, you will find that it closely paralleled Holly's through age 18.
The same is true of his short story, "A Christmas Memory." I suggest that you read about Mr. Capote's childhood in the recent book, A Southern Haunting of Truman Capote, to fully appreciate the magic of this story. His "friend" in the story was based on a beloved figure in his young life, who endowed him with a special sense of being loved and appreciated that formed an important foundation for his character and his skill as a writer. The beautiful devotion that she showed to him is reflected in the loving descriptions he makes of their experiences during their last Christmas together before he was shipped off to military boarding schools at age 8.
"A Diamond Guitar" is about the Platonic love of an older man for a younger one in prison. Like all unrequited love, the older man eventually finds himself embarrassed and exposed. But the experience remains a touchstone to tender feelings in his heart, and he keeps his young friend's glass-diamond-studded guitar under his bed . . . even though it doesn't sound good when others play it and is becoming shabby with age.
"House of Flowers" is a hard look at the vast differences in the ways that women and men view their relationships with one another. Even when loving, the message seems to be that the men will always take advantage of the women. The women, however, acquire soulful beauty in their ability to overcome that needy exploitation and appreciate belonging to one another and to the men.
This story tells the tale of a young woman who works in a house of ill fame in Haiti, and is charmed into "marrying" a young, poor hill man who is dominated by his spell-casting grandmother. Together, the young couple overcome the challenge, and build on their love for one another.
Budding novelists are sometimes encouraged to study nature closely to draw inspiration. Although I do not know if Mr. Capote ever received or followed that advice, it is very clear that he retained a childlike ability to see the world as fresh and new every time. No detail, no nuance, no quirk was too small or unimportant to pass by him or to fail to cast its charm upon him. Kindly and gently, Mr. Capote takes the reader by the hand and shows what makes these elements so interesting to him. In this way, the reader's world is expanded, enlightened, and improved.
These four stories reverbrate against one another, like the continuing vibrations after a large bell after pealing four times, and create a combined effect beyond what any single story can provide.
After you have finished enjoying these stories and the movie, I suggest that you makes some notes about where you belong, who you belong with and to, and what that says about you. In this way, you can notice important connections that mean a lot to you and others that you may be slighting. Honor those tendrils in the way that Mr. Capote would if he were writing a story about your life.
Notice and touch life intimately and lovingly to find truth and beauty!
on July 20, 2006
Just finished reading "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and let out a long sigh right after with a smile on my face. The ending may not necessarily be your typical happy-ending, nonetheless it is delightful. It was a re-read for me, for about like the 4th time and every time I have read it, I have found something different in it. While reading it this time I couldn't separate the movie from the book. Audrey and Peppard kept flashing in front of me as I was reading the book and it felt nice. As I type this so-called review I am listening to "Moon River" [instrumental] and watching Audrey in the opening credits. I love the book. According to me, no one can ever write a novella of such force [besides Marquez and Murakami] than that of Capote. As Norman Mailer said about it, "I wouldn't want to change any word of it. Its just perfect", that's exactly how I feel about it.
Breakfast at Tiffany's - if you already do not know what its about, may be because you haven't read it - the plot is simple: It is about lost dreams, sometimes unrequited love and a whole lot of wit, profundity and the chance to go the whatever length in order to get what one wants. It is about Holiday Golightly [love the play of words] and her life or rather a fragment of her life, as seen through the eyes of the narrator Paul. Paul who loves Holly like all the other men in her life. Holly, who is also an escort/call girl. A girl who is all of twenty and possesses the wisdom of a thirty-year old without losing her naivety. Who believes that one mustn't betray friends, no matter what. Who jumps into a cab and visits "Tiffany & Co." when she gets the `mean reds'. Holly is everything and more. She is promiscuous. She is brazen. She does things like stealing masks and as Billy Joel would put it, "She's always a woman to me"...
Breakfast at Tiffany's is a novella with many layers to it. Abandonment, loneliness, the need to belong and yet not be chained at the same time, the delight in the unorthodox and last but not the least about not loving a wild thing. As Holly says in the book, ""Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell...That was Doc's mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. then a taller tree. Then the sky. That's how you'll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky"
The book was written by Capote at the peak of his career. The somewhat "curious" title Breakfast at Tiffany's was inspired by a man from out-of-town that Capote heard about, who was "ignorant of New York". When the man was asked to pick from the best restaurants in New York where to eat breakfast, he replied: "Well, let's have breakfast at Tiffany's," which was the only place he knew of.
Written in 1958, it portrays a world in which women were invariably best seen and not heard, and totally reliant on men for money and worldly comforts. And yet Capote has created a female character that is largely independent and emotionally strong, although she's vulnerable too (loneliness, depression and desperation are hinted at). While she might be having a lot of fun, she's also on the run from a past that is forever trying to catch up with her as she tries to find a place that makes her feel as happy as Tiffany's does.
All in all, this short novella is a joy to read. Capote's writing is typically rich and lyrical. He describes this woman in such a way that you get the sense he has moulded her on someone that intrigued him, that held some allure or had an aura of mysticism that left a deep impression.
I re-read this book and was pleased to find that I wasn't wrong about it the other million times I read it. Truman Capote is one of my favorite authors and Breakfast at Tiffany's is my all-time favorite American classic. I don't read about Holly Golightly, I absorb this unique, eccentric character. The message Mr. Capote conveys in this novel is one of poignancy and charm. Holly, like her nameless cat, is a free spirit, a young woman whose quirks and unconventional lifestyle endear everyone, including the ambiguous narrator. This book overwhelms me with sadness every time I read it. Ms. Golightly's elusiveness touches me every time. I also love the film version of this novel. But the story gets lost somewhere amid the chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Peppard plays the narrator, and his character loses the mystery and ambiguity that is evident in the book. And even though I love the film's ending, the novel's conclusion is unforgettable. There are various differences between the book and the film, but they're both classics in their unique way. If you've seen the movie but haven't read the book, I strongly suggest you pick it up. Truman Capote is a brilliant writer, and he outdid himself with this timeless gem.
on October 27, 1999
I'm a grown man of thirty with a child on the way. But on reading 'A Christmas Memory', I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Especially when little Buddy is sent off to the military school and his friend is left alone to prepare the christmas cakes all by herself. No where in literature can you find the definition of nostalgic memories so beautifully crafted as in the last two pages of the story.
Like I said, I'm a grown man, really unaccustomed to shedding tears especially if induced by a book. But it happened.
As for Breakfast at Tiffany's - Holly Golightly is something else. In the end, you pity her because you know, that she will never find her Tiffany anywhere in the world. The curse of the wandering soul has left her alone and lonely.
Brilliant. I can't say enough to recommend this brilliant book. Read it first, and then watch the movie. Though Peppard and Hepburn proved worthy actors, the soul of the book, the innocence and the stark realization of real life is not as clearly depicted as in the book.
on December 27, 2005
I had never read any of Capote's works, but after I saw the movie, "Capote", I realized I had a big gap in my survey of American fiction and I knew I had to experience the writing of this interesting and tormented person.
Other reviewers have gone into detail about the stories themselves and I don't find that very interesting anyway, so I'll leave you to explore that for yourself. I will tell you that if you like Hemmingway or Fitzgerald, then Capote's observations and will strike a cord with you. His writing - clear, emotionally invoking and efficient in word is perhaps not as poetic as these two, but is their equal in impact.
The stories are rather short and I found myself wishing they were longer if only to prolong exposure to his work. If you have little experience with Capote, you will not be disappointed.
on May 5, 1997
Readers tend to be sadists. How else do you explain their desire to place themselves into the lives of, or to become, fictional strangers, even when the outcome results in having your heart ripped out? The answer has something to do with "want"; readers want what characters want. Or readers want characters. Especially in this case, in which the object of desire is a tease yet a prude; glossy yet tainted; experienced yet naive. Holly Golightly is as complex a character as ever written, but a hell of a lot more desirable, and I want Holly Golightly.
Capote has penned the quintessential "bitch," which can only be defined as someone with the unique ability to pull someone in emotionally while pushing them away physically. And while Holly is a "bitch" of a character, Capote is a "bitch" of a writer, and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is a "bitch" of a book. At the novel's onset, I met Holly, instantly fell in love with her, and from there I spent my time chasing her, and I chased her until the conclusion, the point when I realized that my pursuit was futile. (This quest lasted for approximately two hours.) So what did I do then? I picked up the book and started reading it again.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" is for gluttons for literary punishment--and I mean this in the most satisfying way--which should be anyone who enjoys reading. This is an almost perfect book that satisfies while leaving the reader longing for more.
on January 28, 2013
First, the short stories. House of Flowers and A Diamond Guitar are both so forgettable that I can't recall a thing about them, or want to. A Christmas Memory, however, is lovely. It's a recollection of a time when a little boy and his old female cousin were constant companions. The woman is never referred to by name; instead the narrator tenderly calls her "my friend." One is too young, and the other too simple-minded to be of significance to the more powerful members of the family. Left to their own devices, they engage in small adventures in their small world. But there is nothing small about the genuine joy and love they experience in each other's company. The march of time brings about a heartbreakingly poignant ending that will bring tears to your eyes. Now for Breakfast at Tiffany's. I can't tell you how many times I read and re-read this novella trying to figure Holly Golightly out. Actually, it's less a story than an in-depth character sketch. Or, to be more precise, character sketches, for Holly contains multitudes. She's a composite portrait of the gold-diggers Capote has known and been fascinated by (including his own mother). The problem is that he throws both successful and unsuccessful ones in the mix. The two sides of that particular coin contradict one another, and Capote seems unwilling to give up any of those personality and character traits. He tries to have it both ways with Holly and ends up with a mishmash character without believable motives. She comes across as an almost mythological fantasy figure. Capote's Holly gets credit for being a romantic, idealistic lost soul concerned with hanging onto her authenticity. She has such a rarified, peculiar sense of honor that she paints herself into a corner and seems certain to meet a tragic end. At the same time she's a born survivor: a hard-boiled, street-smart con artist who's cagey enough to shake down men for a living, edgy enough to mix nonchalantly with Mafia types, and nervy enough to jump bail and flee the country. One minute she's a whore with a heart of gold, and the next she's a nice girl with a heart of brass. Which one is it? WHO IS SHE? Interestingly, Capote takes off his rose-colored glasses to give us the unvarnished truth about who Holly is in the character of Mag Wildwood. Like Holly, Mag is a hillbilly who reinvents herself in the big city. Like Holly, Mag is a chic cafe society girl looking to bag a rich husband. And, like Holly, Mag has a vocal tic that adds to her charm. Mag s-s-stutters, making the most ordinary th-th-things sound c-c-cute. Holly sprinkles her conversation with Miss Piggy French ("QUEL rat"), and rich-bit** word emphasis ("Oh DARLING, I AM so sorry"). Even though they're two of a kind, the difference is that, in their calling, Mag is a success and Holly a failure. Capote is insistent, however, that Mag is a true whore, while Holly is a romantic. Going by her actions, I fail to see the difference. I can't picture Holly bagging a rich husband and living in luxury, or settling down in the suburbs, or going crazy, or committing suicide. I don't think Capote could, either. All those different women Holly represents came to different, contradictory ends. To choose just one of those fates would make Holly seem either banal or tragic. He has nowhere to go, so he basically throws up his hands suggests a vague, wistful, ride into the sunset. There is no end for Holly because she was just meant to be Capote's attempt to preserve in amber all of those women he knew-captured forever at the height of their allure and power. Holly's sole function is to be an object of beauty, like the African woodcarver's sculpture. She's a myth. Holly's former agent, O.J. Berman, uses a succint phrase to describe her crazy ideas. I think it also applies to the entire Holly Golightly character Capote serves up: "Horses*** on a platter."
on March 7, 2003
The book and the film, while both fantastic, are very different creatures. Both can stand on their own quite well. While I prefer the idea of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golighty, I like Holly herself in the book far better. She is a very frightened little girl (really, a girl-she is only 19), unsure of herself in a crazy, mixed-up world. She, of course, doesn't help the situation any. She is constantly looking for something-anything-to make her comfortable with herself and with her surroundings.
The book, unlike the film, has the correct ending. The first time I saw the film, I had not read the book. And, yet, I could tell that the ending-as sweet and fairy-tale as it is-could not possibly be the right one. Holly is searching for something that she will never and can never find. I often wonder what Capote thought of the film's ending. Did he like it?? Or did he find it a complete cop out??
on April 8, 2009
This is a short novella, and a page turner set in New York city in the 1950s or late 1940s.
Truman Capote, 1924 to 1984, is a well know American writer. I have read a number of his works including his famous In Cold Blood, a book that I recommend highly. Also, I read some of his early work including Other Voices, Other Rooms, and many of his short stories. Generally, he is regarded as an excellent writer or a highly gifted writer. He ranks among the best of his time. In Cold Blood is probably his finest work and one of the better crime books of the twentieth century.
There are some parallels between Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Both show an attempt by the writers to write a novel different from their prior works using clear and straightforward prose, and with relatively coherent plots. One could say these works were more commercially oriented. Perhaps they had the idea of novels as the basis of screenplays or a play. The work is less complex than most of Capote's prior works and it seems more polished. Capote called it the beginning of his second career where he thinned out the prose. It is the opposite of his obscure and creative Other Voices, Other Rooms. F. Scott Fitzgerald made similar comments in his diaries on the preparation of Gatsby.
This is a short novel or novella. It involves the fictitious friend of the writer, Holly Golightly, and their mutual friend Joe Bell, a bar owner in Manhattan. She is a free spirit and a neighbour of the narrator living below him in an apartment. They share the telephone at Joe's bar, and Joe takes messages for them. We follow some of her escapades and the relationship between the narrator and Holly. We assume that the narrator is like Capote.
In my own mind, it seems difficult to equate the woman in the story with Audrey Hepburn who appears in the movie version. The woman in the book seems younger, more sexual, and more manipulative.
This is a very entertaining book which is hard to put down. It is among the best works of Capote
Fine writing: 5 stars.
on February 15, 2009
I have never truly forgiven Capote for his caustic remarks about Kerouac's "On The Road" - "it's typing, not writing". I can remember the first time I read that quote and my response was something to the effect of 'where did that girlish, haughty, little gnome get off on ripping apart a classic like that?!' Nothing I had ever read about Capote and the way he has been portrayed on the big screen has ever really drawn me to him as a person or as a writer. But being a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and liking the cute, little film a lot (except for Mickey Rooney's role), I decided, what the hell, the novella isn't very long and I can't really judge the man as an artist until I actually read some of his work. And while I definitely have "In Cold Blood" on my list of must-reads, I thought I would give this one a stab before diving into the more weighty stuff.
"It's better to look at the sky than to live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes, and things disappear."
Truman C. "Breakfast @ Tiffs"
Definitely a novel that is much different than the film, to call it loosely based, is an understatement. The main protagonist, Holly Golightly, is not the same Golightly girl that sweet Aubrey played in the film. Not even close. And since old Tru had no problemo selling his soul...err screenplay to Paramount, only furthers to affirm just how different of an artist Capote was from Mr. Kerouac. That's capitalism after all, so who can blame him. Bottom line, don't expect it to be like the movie. Speaking of the movie though, as great as Aubrey was in it, the only other person I could even possibly imagine in that role is Marilyn Monroe. So Tru (who wanted Monroe for the part) and I are definitely on the same page there.
This novelette is for the most part a character study of a rather bleak existence. Holly is a sexy little siren w/ the street smarts of a pimp and the wit and acumen of a seasoned huckster. Yet despite her gifts, she is a young woman who has been seriously wounded by the past, leaving those unenviable scars that no amount of make-up or fancy dresses can ever conceal. Truman never lets us in to her past, maybe because Holly has none. In fact, the only thing that really keeps Holly just a wee bit anchored is the only thing that links her to the past - her beloved brother Fred. It is also the only person or thing in this world she truly loves, the only person she has an attachment to. But make no mistake about it folks, as independent and free as she strives to be, deep down inside she's hungering for love and connection. And that is the real tragedy.
Perhaps I was expecting this to be much better than it was for me. There are a lot of good things about this book, and why I would still recommend it to others. After all, if you end up disliking it, at least it's not "War & Peace", for it will probably take you less than a day (some people less than a couple of hours) to finish it. I do dig for the most part Capote's simple, yet compassionate and gentle prose. I thought it would be more ornate and elegant, so I was actually quite surpised by his terse, fluent flow of storytelling. I also really enjoyed Holly, she is by far and away the best thing about this story. For me, none of the other minor characters were memorable at all. We have all known gals like Holly in our day. People who flew into our lives like a tornado and left the same way, only to be long forgotten... Because no matter how fun and flamboyant and furtive and fervent they were, no matter how much we all enjoyed the enigma at the time, there was nothing really sincere and sustaining about their soul to make us really miss them. But remember them we shall! And always with smiles on our faces while scratching our heads in wonderment...
I expected more overall. Capote didn't unearth enough of his oblique creation (Holly) for me personally. It left me hungering for way more than I was given. If she is so damn complex, tell me more?! But then again, perhaps that was his intent - to have us all scratching our heads thinking about her, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together even though many of the pieces were missing or didn't seem to fit. Who knows? And in that sense, art truly does imitate life.
I forgive you now Tru, well, almost. Again, overall, I would have to recommend this short, easy to read story about a very complex woman. I didn't dislike it by a long shot; it just wasn't as good as I hoped. And in my humble opinion, I'll still take Kerouac any day. Then again, I can't judge a man by one novella, and a pretty decent one at that. So the juries still out until I read "In Cold Blood".
Thanks for reading this, I hope it helps. Again, just one simple man's simple opinion...