As part of the “Writing Amidst Life” theme, today I thought I’d share my thoughts about reading one of my all-time favorite novels.
This review is actually a blog post- dating back to 2010 when I first started this blog. At that time, I was the only writer on Writing the Fire, and I was trying to inspire myself back into writing, after a good 10-year sabbatical, by reading a variety of books.
The first time I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s proved to be one of those unforgettable experiences every reader yearns for the moment she opens the cover.
I hope you enjoy.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
(Warning- there are a lot of sighs in this post.)
I just finished reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I am proud to announce that it’s made it into my “Top-Ten-Favorites-of-All-Time” list. Let me pause here because that is HUGE.
Those of you who know me well understand what an anomaly that is. Some people like to call people like me a “book snob.” But I prefer to think of myself as a “book flake.” Because if I’m not hooked and in love with at least one of the characters by the end of the first chapter, I’ll totally flake out and either procrastinate finishing it or blow it off completely.
But with Tiffany’s, I was hooked in the first paragraph. The writing drew me in, like love at first sight. Truman Capote is one of the few authors I can say that about.
I do have to admit, I had already seen the movie. And a few chapters in- I thought the book was a little strange and sometimes even crude, compared to the images of flawless Audrey Hepburn in her stylish dark sunglasses and sleek black dress from the movie. The novel has more of the gritty, nutty, real-life stuff than I expected.
But, overall? Delicious. Captivating, in-depth characters and absolutely divine writing, filled with feeling and wit. Delicious, juicy sentences I want to carve out and savor like chocolate truffles..like:
“It seemed a dance, Berman performing some fancy footwork to prevent his rivals cutting in. He lost her to a quadrile of partners who gobbled up her stammered jokes like popcorn tossed to pigeons.”
“Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the only smudge on the quivering air. Aprils have never meant that much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring; which was how I felt sitting with Holly on the railings of the boathouse porch.”
*Sigh* No one writes like this anymore! Can’t you just smell the mustiness of the smoke, feel the coolness of fall, and the heaviness in his heart? This is the kind of wit, feeling, and realness I want in my writing. It’s true what they say, Capote is an absolute master at creating the perfect sentence.
*As a side note. I’ve decided I am most certainly infatuated with Truman Capote. Yeah, I know he was gay and…no way to say it politely: he’s extremely deceased. I don’t care. Part of me is in love with him…or some version of him in my head, anyway.
Point being, whatever his preferences were, the way he describes scenes makes a girl week in the knees. (Besides, did you know he was best friends with Harper Lee, who ironically, is another author on my top 10 list. I think at the very least we could have been hang-out-and-complain-about-writers-block buddies.)*
Yeah I know. I digress. It’s my blog, I get to do what I want.
Anyway here’s the thing about Breakfast at Tiffany’s that I’ve never heard anyone say, and maybe why I love it so much…
Let me explain with a quick summary:
Holly Golightly is a beautiful, young (very young) woman living in New York city post WWII. She has no job, skills, or family but lives by means of…well, making men happy. No-she isn’t a prostitute, not by the standard definition anyway. Or at least, I didn’t get that out of the story. Maybe the point is that the reader is left wondering whether she is, or…does, or not. She simply finds rich men in need of companionship and charms them into giving her $50 for the powder room, cab fare, and etc…
Holly insists that she won’t be tied down or connected with any one person, place or thing for any real length of time. Her furniture consists of several wooden crates, a few suitcases and a bed. She has a cat that she adores, but refuses to name because: “He doesn’t belong to me and I don’t belong to him. we just ran into each other.”
She refers to someone loving her as being in “a cage.” It becomes obvious within the first few chapters that Holly lives this way; in fear, because she is terrified of losing herself. Which is ironic, because it’s also obvious that she really has no idea who she is.
Enter narrator, known only as “Fred,” which Holly calls him because he reminds her of her brother, currently in the Army and overseas. “Fred” is a struggling writer and moves into the apartment below Holly’s. He is immediately beguiled by her charms.
His descriptions of her, of their time together completely reveal that he loves her, though he never says so in so many words, at least not to her. He gets sort of caught up in the whirlwind that is Holly’s life and helps her out of trouble a time or two.
I really loved that as the story progresses, Fred goes from looking from the outside in at Holly’s chaotic life, to becoming so enchanted and intrigued and infatuated with her that he becomes the chaos. To me, this is a good interpretation/commentary about what happens to people when they fall in love; Having been lost into someone else’s drama without ever realizing it is so.
The fact that Fred could fall for Holly is ironic as well, because Fred is the very antithesis of her, and willing to put himself completely inside the “cage” that is love. : (
There is a moment near the end of the book when Holly must leave town because of some trouble she’s involved in. She and Fred are riding in a taxi to the airport, and she takes her cat to a strange neighborhood and throws him out, telling him to find a new home. Fred is apalled, and tells her so.
Holly suddenly realizes what she has done, simply tossed away the one thing she has ever truly cared for, the one thing she has come close to giving herself to, and rushes back to find her cat. Which is ironic, because she’s always saying that she can’t even give the cat a name- living the way she does, not even considering that her apartment is home to either of them.
I won’t give away the end, in hopes that you’ll become inspired by this post and go check it out from the library and into the pages. I won’t even tell you if she finds her cat.
But I will tell you, I always say the really good stories end with one great big and contemplative sigh. For me, this one did.
However sad and ironic, this is a unique and compelling story, written with poetic emotion gracing many of the scenes; sweet and well-timed, like a cameo appearance by the likes of Audrey Hepburn. It’s words were woven carefully by the writer to make the reader become as enchanted as all of Holly’s adoring companions.
Some good lessons learned here: The characters were beautifully written, so much so that I felt I knew them at the end of the book. The plot moved quickly and didn’t dwell on small details but still managed to be seamlessly descriptive. Loved that.
I could learn a lot from you, Truman Capote. Why don’t you wander over into my imagination tonight, and we’ll discuss our writing methods over coffee and French pastries outside Tiffany’s windows…
See ya next time,