Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Interesting paradox here. I really don’t like Holly Golightly very much, and at the same time I kind of want to be her. That is, the her who comes off as carefree and independent and living in a new York brownstone with a tufted satin bed and an endless array of lovers and pearls and drinks at El Morocco. The lonely escaped-child-bride racist alcoholic, not so much.
(One annoyance: The store is not Tiffany’s. It’s Tiffany. Tiffany & Co., if you want to be pedantic.)
Truman Capote was a wordsmith, capturing moment after moment to weave a tapestry of a time and a place and a woman the narrator cannot forget. This is one case where I’d seen the movie before I read the book, but even so I had trouble picturing Audrey Hepburn as I read, picturing instead more of an ethereally captivating blonde. That shows how well Capote paints a picture, as I can’t recall now whether Capote directly described her as blonde or not–if he did, it wasn’t repeatedly. After I finished the book I read that Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly and felt double-crossed that she hadn’t, out of concern for what playing a harlot would do for her image. And Audrey was ethereally captivating, too, and I’m not complaining about her performance at all. It was iconic. But it was brunette.
So, was the book better, or was the movie better? Neither. They were only loosely the same. The film was lighter, Holly cleaned up to meet the Hays Code’s proscription against a female protagonist using her beauty to live off the expense accounts of businessmen and weekly payola from an incarcerated gangster. Movie Holly is naive and breathless, tripping through life like a happy creek, as charming and disarming as her name. Book Holly is much darker, with a secret past, street savvy, and a sex life that was unacceptable movie fare in 1961. Movie Holly was unabashedly trying to marry up; Book Holly was, well, maybe not a call girl exactly, but if a guy slipped her a fifty as powder-room money at “21,” he’d be more likely to get her into bed later. The movie has a happy ending; the book…well, read it. And for days after watching the movie, I walked around singing “Moon River” to myself; all through the book I could hear that song by Deep Blue Something playing in my head, and neither of those is a bad thing.
Bookshelves: literary-fiction, classic, pomo
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