Monday, June 27, 2005

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I don't want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I'm not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It's like Tiffany's. - Holly Golightly

Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's appeared in 1958, and is perhaps the most influential and well-known of hs works, second only to Cold Blood. Everybody knows about the film and Audrey Hepburn's brilliant interepretation of Holly Golightly - yet I've not yet seen the film. If what I've heard about the film is true, then this is one film I am now dying to own, for the book charmed me completely.

A short novel, it has been beautifully written with heart-warming characters that tend to linger in your memory long after you put the book down. The romantic notions of the narrator can't fail to appeal, nor can the nostalgic descriptions of New York in the 40s. Holly Golightly, a ground-breaking work in characterisation, is a woman who makes a holiday out of her life, treading through it lightly, breaking hearts as she flits from one scene to the other. Yet she can't be dismissed as a one-dimensional character. What makes her so lovable are the shades Capote has painted onto her personality - interestingly some contemporary critics even castigated Capote for sketching a character that was so obviously amoral and promiscuous. Despite that criticism Holly Golightly won hearts - and continues to do so! There is an interesting analysis of the book here.

The edition I picked up (Vintage International, 1993) also includes three of Capote's most famous short stories - House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory. Perhaps the most moving short stories I've read in a long time, they are wonderfully poignant, lyrical and beautiful. My favourite would have to be A Christmas Memory, the tale of a friendship that existed between a small boy and an old woman. It has a very strong flavour of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird - as does A Diamond Guitar, another tale of friendship.

As a last word, I quote Norman Mailer - "Truman Capote ... is the most perfect writer of my generation, he writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm. I would not have changed two words in Breakfast at Tiffany’s which will become a small classic."