Thursday, September 24, 2015

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a novella by Truman Capote published in 1958. The main character, Holly Golightly, is one of Capote's best-known creations.

In autumn 1943, the unnamed narrator becomes friends with Holly Golightly, who calls him "Fred," after her older brother. The two are both tenants in a brownstone apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Holly (age 18–19) is a country girl turned New York cafĂ© society girl. As such, she has no job and lives by socializing with wealthy men, who take her to clubs and restaurants, and give her money and expensive presents; she hopes to marry one of them. According to Capote, Golightly is not a prostitute but an "American geisha."

Holly likes to shock people with carefully selected tidbits from her personal life or her outspoken viewpoints on various topics. Over the course of a year, she slowly reveals herself to the narrator, who finds himself fascinated by her curious lifestyle.

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There is something wistful about this novel. It makes me feel like Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a place I’ve been to before. It reminds me of a time in life when parties happened at all hours, when people came and went, where the normal rules of life were thrown out the window and where intense relationships happen and then quickly disappear leaving that mysterious footprint of “whatever happened to…?”, knowing that that person irrevocably changed the DNA of your own life, making it seem much grayer, so much less, without them.

That is the feeling I got when I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Of course, Audrey Hepburn brought Holly Golightly to life in a light, glamourous insouciant version that the world fell in love with. The real Holly, Truman Capote’s Holly, is in fact much darker, a much more layered person. When she and her brother are orphaned at a young age and she marries at 14 she runs away from this life and the person she is. She is a young, beautiful girl who reinvents herself as a highly sought after social escort who lives life as if each moment were a holiday. Holiday Golightly – Traveling is what’s written on her business cards.

The story is told from the point of view of “Fred”, a struggling young writer, who gets to know Holly when she moves into an apartment in his old brownstone in New York during the second world war. He first meets her when she appears on his fire escape but long before that, he heard the music, the parties and the voices of an endless stream of middle-aged men who came and went from her flat.

Over the course of the year and half that he knows her, Fred, a name that she gives him because he reminds her of her brother, is pulled into the slipstream of Holly Golightly, who entertains Hollywood directors, wealthy gentleman she dines with nightly and who dreams of marrying rich. Her solace, when she seeks it, is at Tiffany’s which offers an almost realized form of the life she longs for.

Her invented self is so large that the distance between it and reality is far enough that you fear that she’ll never find that centre that everyone needs to understand where they belong. “It could go on forever.” she says “Not knowing what’s yours until you’ve thrown it away.” There are only a few moments in the book where the rawness and vulnerability of her true self is momentarily revealed and it grabs your heart in the same way as when you see a wounded animal.

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