Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories by Truman Capote
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is one of those books that I had heard so much about and to be sure, Capote's writing is strong and convincing. However, Jesus said that the words of the mouth are the overflow of the heart, and that would also be true of our written words. So I ask myself, why did Capote write a story about a vain, vapid, self-absorbed woman with little intelligence and less conscience.
He knows Holly Golightly (that's her name, yes, it's a name she invented for herself; as we read we find that she entirely invented herself) has these qualities. He created her. I believe, however, that he was inspired to write about her based on women he knew and also that they must have fascinated him.
The story is written in first person and I suppose we are to assume the narrator is Capote himself. He is a young, gay writer trying to succeed in Manhattan. Holly GoLightly lives in the same apartment complex as he does. Golightly is young, beautiful and an enigma. She could have been a movie star, so a man who wanted to act as her agent says. We should believe him, because he is a Hollywood agent.
But she leaves Hollywood and makes a living working in the bathroom of a restaurant. Her apartment is a wreck and always filled with friends, mostly men who are drooling after her. She is friendly, promiscuous even, with all but close to none.
I found nothing in Holly's life attractive. She wanted a life filled with noise. She moved to one of the noisiest places in the world to live and, if that wasn't enough, she keeps her apartment crowded and noisy all night long. It was exhausting just to read about it.
She does exude a certain naivety and compassion. She's not a mean person, but there is no getting beneath the hard gloss, the veneer that is always on. We get glimpses of her past, which I won't share because it's a spoiler, that show a different side and a very different life from the one she lives now.
There seems to be only one person in the world she cares about, a brother, but that is all.
It seems tragic that someone is willing to live their life in a shallow cesspool. What satisfaction do they get out of it?
And it has a shelf life. Will men still be surrounding Holly Golightly when she ages, her looks leave her and all that's left is the paper thin personality?
Once again, Capote reveals himself in his characters. He is the observer in this story, but he is also the center. He is lonely and isolated and perhaps that is why he is attracted to people like Holly Golightly. She is surrounded by crowds, yet also alone, a misfit.
The other stories are equally poignant. In House of Flowers we meet a woman who grew up in the mountains of a Caribbean island but after losing her family, becomes a prostitute in a nearby town. She meets a man who loves her and marries her and takes her back to the mountains, but has a mother who seems to be a supernatural witch. The woman must choose which life she prefers: prostitution or living with a witch.
A Diamond Guitar is about an old man in prison for murder who meets a young man from Cuba or Puerto Rico who plays guitar. The ensuing story shows their complicated relationship with a surprising ending.
The last, A Christmas Memory, is Capote's enduring story about living in the south with an elderly Aunt, both of whom are shut off from the rest of the family, but make their Christmas joy with each other.
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