Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

I love the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's and I enjoyed the movie Capote with Philip Seymour Hoffman. So, I figured I needed to read Capote's novella that inspired Breakfast at Tiffany's. And I loved it. If you need a plot summary click here.

Fantastic prose. First person narration doesn't really describe it. It's chock full of conversation which is not what I tend to associate with "literature." But this is the good stuff. The conversations are interesting because they reveal the way Holly's world works -- the way she works, the way 1950s New York society works and how people perceive other people. Also, they're funny conversations -- unusual and witty.

How people perceive other people... I think this is why I enjoyed "Fred's" narration so much. He's not really telling us a story about himself like most first person narrators do. He doesn't droll on about his own feelings (interesting though they are). He's telling us Holly's story -- she's the main character and "Fred" is just the one to tell us about her. The fact that we never know "Fred's" real name drives home this point for me. "Fred's" perspective is limited to his direct and indirect encounters with Holly and information passed through the grape vine. As a result, Holly is something more than a character in a book. She's that person we all knew once or maybe catch glimpses of in ourselves. "Fred's" narration makes me wonder: Am I who I think I am or, am I who others think am I? Which is the truer perspective? The narration works well in establishing both "Fred" and Holly's characters and their relationship and is a technique I haven't really encountered before (or noticed if I have).

On the surface, Breakfast at Tiffany's is about a quirky girl who obeys her own ambiguous set of rules. But I found this book is really about getting to know someone -- encountering a person who is special, unusual and magnetizing but also evanescent, elusive and fragile. That's Holly Golightly. The reader goes through this social experience with "Fred," getting to know Holly with him.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite passages with O.J. and "Fred" talking, O.J. speaking first...

"So," he said, "what do you think: is she or ain't she?"
"Ain't she what?"
"A phony."
"I wouldn't have thought so."
"You're wrong. She is a phony. But on the other hand you're right. She isn't a phony because she's a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes" (28-29).

Publisher: Modern Library, 1994 (originally, 1958)     Pages: 3-105 (of 161)
Full Title: Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories
Rating: 5 Stars     Source: Public Library

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