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[493] Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

” I know damn well I’d never be a movie star. It’s too hard; and f you’re intelligent, it’s too embarrassing. My complexes aren’t inferior enough: being a movie star and having a big fat ego are supposed to go hand-in-hand; actually, it’s essential not to have any ego at all. I don’t mean I’d mind being rich and famous. That’s very much on my schedule, and someday I’ll try to get around it it; but if it happens, I’d like to have my ego tagging along. I want to still be me when I wake up one fine morning and have breakfast at Tiffany’s. ” (39)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a short book that I read in one sitting. Holly Golightly, as her name implies, is a young woman who makes a holiday of life in New York in 1943. She treads through life so lightly with seeming fearlessness. She befriends an array of wealthy men who buys her gifts and takes her to fancy restaurants. She remains unconscious of the existence of the unnamed narrator, whom she later calls Fred after her brother, until a late-night episode in which she climbs into the narrator’s apartment from the fire escape to dodge an admirer who won’t leave her house.

It was no novelty to encounter suspicious specimens among Holly’s callers, quite the contrary; but one day late that spring, while passing through the brownstone’s vestibule, I notice a very provocative man examining her mailbox. (64)

The book is finely paced and beautifully written, revealing Holly’s routine. Upon leaving Joe Bell’s bar, the anonymous narrator, now in his late fifties, is suddenly transfixed by his own recollections of Holly, who is searching for a place she would call home. Her address sign says Holly Golightly: Traveling. “Home is where you feel at home. I’m still looking.” (102) This statement of Holly resonates throughout the book, almost everything she says and does illustrates her outlook on life, and her inability to accept it settled down.

I’ll never get used to anything. Anybody that does, they might as well be dead. (19)

Holly Golightly has multiple facets: Hollywood starlet, cafe’s society celebrity, highly publicized girl-about-New York. Her past is murky and she is elusive about her childhood—until a man in his fifties comes snooping at her mailbox in the brownstone. He reveals her shocking identity. Her being a liaison between an imprisoned mafia and his chief lieutenant also puts her in trouble with the law.

Throughout the novella there is the mention of “wild things” and Holly no doubt is the epitome of wild things. She is both innocent and vain, forbidding herself to believe that she’s a prostitute. Tiffany is her ideal home, a utopia, that cures her of “mean reds”, a state of anxiety that is worse than just fear. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a wonderful comedy of manners set in its time. This unique, eccentric character keeps me riveted. Her elusiveness is disheartening but her quirks and unconventional lifestyle endear me. Capote’s writing is evocative and flows seamlessly. He has created a powerful character out of a universal type that is no less relevant in our time now.

111 pp. Vintage. Paper. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]


10 Responses

  1. I’ve read it a few years ago. Although the prose seems to flow effortlessly, it is actually quite intricate. I did enjoy reading it but I must admit that I LOVE the film adaptation of the novella. The ending in the film appeals to me more than the ending in the book. If you’ve watched the film (highly recommended), you’ll see why. 😊

  2. One interesting thing about the movie is how sanitized it is compared to the book. I was quite surprised when I read the book after having previously seen the movie.

  3. I read this a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think both the book and the movie are excellent and they are different enough takes on the same material to make them both worthwhile.

    At the time the movie was made there was no way Breakfast at Tiffany’s could make it to the screen without being sanitized.

  4. I found both the Holly Golightly of the movie and the book quite endearing, each in their own way. The Holly Golightly of the novella is a richer character; your description and appreciation of her is spot on. But who wouldn’t find Audrey Hepburn beguiling?

    Of the several stories I’ve read by Capote, this is one of the most captivating and humane in spirit. Thanks for the review and your insights. I’ll read it in a fresh light next time I pick it up.

  5. […] [493] Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote […]

  6. […] I was reading Breakfast At Tiffany’s for a second […]

  7. I saw this book whilst perusing the shelves at Foyles Book store the other day – I might have to go back and make a purchase. Your review was also beautifully written 😀

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