As mentioned before, New York Times has started a book club – the Big City Book Club. Ginia Bellafonte is in charge and every six weeks or so, she decides which book to feature and then people can comment on her blog. All the books chosen will be about New York City in some way or other. The third book chosen is Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The next book club will be on January 10th – the book has not been named yet. I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s back in 2009 and liked it, but didn’t love it. I read it in a volume which contained Breakfast at Tiffany’s as well as three other short stories. Here I’m featuring the review I wrote back then.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
This is the longest story in the book and the most well-known. Our narrator lives in the same building as Holiday Golightly, a young woman with a spunky attitude who earns her living by making “trips to the powder room”. Her apartment is a mess and in some ways, so is her life but on the surface she’s calm and collected and always looking perfect behind her dark glasses. The narrator and a fellow friend meet because the friend maybe has news about Holly whom they both lost track of.
Holly is a girl with a past. She’s also a girl completely in control on the outside but in need of people to help her get everything together. She’s a person who can’t be trapped – or named – just like her cat who lives with her but has no name because they don’t belong together because Holly doesn’t want to own things before she’s found a place where she and things belong together, a home. She’s one of those persons that you meet in your life, spend a summer or a year with and then they disappear from your life but you always look back on that time and smile.
Holly has created her own version of what she thinks men want – and she studies hard to keep on top of her subject. Books about baseball etc so she can talk with men. But behind the facade, she’s mostly a scared and a bit naive girl who escapes to Tiffany’s when life gets too hard.
But when all comes to all, Holly didn’t really get to me. Maybe because the story is too short to really get under her skin – even though I know perfectly who she is. And I liked that the ending wasn’t all Hollywood. But something just didn’t resonate with me the way I needed it too… On the other hand, the shortness of the novel is also the way other people get to know Holly – she’s only in your life a short while so the way we as the reader experience her is also the way people in her life see her.
But I do like the way Capote write – like this quote: “He was a middle-aged child that had never shed its baby fat, though some gifted tailor had almost succeeded in camouflaging his plump and spankable bottom. There wasn’t a suspicion of bone in his body; his face, a zero filled in with pretty miniature features, had an unused, a virginal quality: it was as if he’d been born, then expanded, his skin remaining unlined as a blown-up balloon and his mouth, though ready for squalls and tantrums, a spoiled sweet puckering.”(35) I love this description of a man!
House of Flowers
A young girl earning her living as a prostitute, meets a young man who she falls in love with – the bee didn’t sting – and marries. However, his grandmother tries her hardest to make life hard for the girl and starts putting various animals in her sewing basket. To get even with her, the girl starts making the grandmother’s dinner by using the various animals she find in the basket…
A story about choosing your fate – even when others don’t agree with your choice.
A Diamond Guitar
This prison story is about accepting life – and knowing who’s truly your friend. Mr. Schaeffer is in prison for murder and one day, a young man is imprisoned. The two men becomes friends – even though the new man plays songs on his guitar that reminds the prisoners of life outside: “Now, recognizing his loneliness, he felt alive. He had not wanted to be alive. To be alive was to remember brown rivers where the fish run, and sunlight on a lady’s hair.”(143) And when you’re in prison and starts longing for the outside, it can make you make dangerous decisions…
A Christmas Memory
This was my favourite story in the book. Seven year old ‘Buddy’ lives together with his distant cousin, an older woman, and their dog, the rat terrier Queenie. Each christmas they bake a lot of fruitcakes and send them to various people and look forward to receiving thank you cards back. This christmas, their last together, they also hunt for a very special tree.
The story is a somewhat melancholic recollection of this christmas but very sweet and touching. And Capote got the dog completely – they put a bone for her in the tree close to the top and “Queenie knows it’s there. She squats at the foot of the tree staring up in a trance of greed: when bedtime arrives she refuses to budge.” I can just see that small terrier sitting there, waiting determined for her bone!
All in all, 4 okay stories from a great writer. I really like Capote’s way of writing in these stories but as always, I’m not the biggest fan of short stories and I more often than not find that they don’t linger with me – simply because they are too short to really register, I think. And I was a bit disappointed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Previous posts about the Big City Book Club:
Helen Schulman: This Beautiful Life
Colum McCann: Let the Great World Spin