Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Vintage Books, 1993
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Consisting of the novella, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and three additional short stories, this is a little gem of a book. Having recently watched the movie with Audrey Hepburn, I was eager to read Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Somewhat darker, and certainly richer than the Hollywood version, I was not disappointed. Narrated by an unnamed writer, we get to see Holly Golightly, the iconic, self-made socialite, through his admiring eyes. He meets Holly in his New York brownstone apartment building in the 1940s, and becomes intrigued by her mysterious past and her untiring zest for life. He follows Holly’s antics as she wields her charisma around town, charming men into supporting her expensive lifestyle.
Capote is brilliant in revealing Holly through another’s eyes. This permits us to see only the surface of Miss Golightly, only what she wants others to see of her. The darker side of Holly is cleverly disguised behind the glitter and glamour that charms the narrator. And yet Capote hints that not all is rosy with Holly. Bouts of ‘the reds’ suggest that Holly suffers periods of severe depression, perhaps resulting from her inability to really connect with people or places at anything than a superficial level. Holly is a surprisingly complex character — at times generous, carefree and loving, and at others, distant and shallow. And underneath all of this, Capote subtly lets us know that she is as vulnerable as a wounded animal.
Perhaps one of the most poignant scenes of the book revolves around the gift and disposal of a bird cage — serving to represent Holly’s desperate attempt to be uncaged and free, and her desperate attempt to escape who she really is in order to become someone else. It is a beautiful, yet startling sad story, demonstrating much more depth than the Hollywood version.
The other three short stories that comprise the collection are equally engaging. In ‘House of Flowers’, a prostitute in Port au Prince, gives up her job and friends to marry someone she meets at a cock fight, only to find that life is not always greener on the other side. And in ‘A Diamond Guitar,’ a young man in a penitentiary playing a diamond-studded guitar, charms a fellow inmate into escaping with him.
The final short story, ‘A Christmas Story’ is perhaps my favorite short story of all time. The story of a man who is remembering his boyhood years, making fruitcakes with an elderly aunt during The Depression. It is endearing and tender, bringing me to the brink of tears at the end. It is often suggested that the story is semi-autobiographical, giving us a slight opening into making of the man we know as Truman. I don’t have many holiday traditions, but I always make a point of reading this story every December.
The thread that ties these stories together is Capote’s ability to masterfully create somewhat off-beat characters. Characters that are rich and vibrant, complex and daring, and definitely atypical in their approach to life. It is hard to come across a collection of stories as powerful and engaging as these. Enjoy!
Click below to find a copy of this gem at your local bookstore: