Friday, November 21, 2008

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (First Vintage International, first published 1950) 111 pages

This novella is less captivating and more crude than the film ... although it's really not fair to compare the two. Capote was not responsible for both. They are two separate artistic media but it is difficult not to think of both or compare them.

The iconic Holly Golightly strikes me not as a lovable irresponsible if glamorous flake, but a manipulative, slightly sour operator somewhat bent on self-destruction. Not a free spirit but a bit of a parasite bent on getting what she can from those around her: Paul the writer, her husband Doc Golightly, her would be Brazilian husband Jose, Rusty Trawler (one part troll/millionaire, one part Capote it seems) ...

The language is larded with 50s colloquialisms that do not stand the test of time in my estimation.

When asked who Holly was based on Capote would coyly say "Me". So many of the women surrounding him when he achieved fame claimed that they had inspired the creation of that waif. It seemed an absurd assertion on Capote's part on the surface of it. But having read a biography of Capote, I now see how Holly (nee Lulamae) truly does resemble Truman.

Both have roots in the rural South, the desire to re-invent him/herself, the obsession with glamour, the slightly louche persona, the unorthodox views on sexuality (from a 1940s/50s POV) ...

I expect I am meant to captivated by Holly and her antics but actually I'd like to wring her neck sometimes for being so selfish. I was disappointed with the book. Still the image of Holly standing before a window at Tiffany's has a certain charm that has not diminished.

My first encounter with Capote was the immeasurably superior In Cold Blood which is of a totally different genre. I wish the book club had chosen that book!

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