Sunday, May 15, 2022

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

"What I've found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name" - Breakfast at Tiffany's

For the 2022 Back to the Classics Challenge - choose a classic from a place you would love to visit I decided to go with Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote published 1958.  I love New York, lived there most of my life, and would certainly like to go back to visit and stay there actually.  Also having seen and enjoyed the classic film based on the book and Audrey Hepburn's enchanting portrayal of the beautiful, quirky NYC party girl Holly Golightly I wondered how the Holly of the book might differ.  

To start with. the novel is exceptionally well written which having read Capote's In Cold Blood years ago did not come as a suprise.  And as for Holly in both the novel and the film she makes her living through men who buy her things and pay her bills.  But she has a harder edge in the book.  Here she is for example explaining to her upstairs neighbor how she visits Sal Tomato, an organized crime figure, in prison once a week and gets paid $100.00 a visit for an hour of conversation: 

You can do as well as that on trips to the powder room: any gent with the slightest chic will give you fifty for the girl's john, and I always ask for cab fare too, that's another fifty. But then he told me his client was Sally Tomato. He said dear old Sally had long admired me à la distance, so wouldn't it be a good deed if I went to visit him once a week. Well, I couldn't: it was too romantic.  I don't know. It doesn't sound right.’‘ She smiled. ‘‘You think I'm lying? .... I'm supposed to be his niece.’‘

In the film Audrey Hepburn gave Holly a much more naive waif-like appeal but in the book she is a coniver.  Money means alot to Holly.  She does take a liking though to her upstairs neighbor, a writer who reminds her of her brother Fred who she adores  Her upstairs neighbor is also the narrator of the book.  Unlike in the movie these two do not end up romantically involved.  

Instead the narrator is reflecting back on the year in which he knew Holly.  And we learn a good deal about her life before she came to New York.  Born Lulamae Barnes in rural Texas her childhood was one of abandonment and abuse.   By the time she arrives in NYC, age nineteen, she has totally reinvented herself.  As I was reading the book and noting how Holly Golightly was living her life, the parties, men in and out of her apartment and no regard for her future I kept thinking this can't end well.  But like the cat she found abandoned by the river and took home, Holly is a survivor and I closed the book smiling at how she got herself out of a bad situation that arrives near the end of the novel.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is not very long, 85 pages.  I can't say you will like Holly but based on her difficult childhood I think you will understand and root for her.  That said she is not a blueprint in how to live one's life.  A real life version of Holly Golightly would be headed for trouble.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Books and Beyond - 1958 Goodreads

I am always creating book lists for myself.  And so I decided to look up novels published the year I was born which was 1958.  I  typed in 1958 Goodreads and up popped Most Popular Books Published in 1958.  It was a list of about two hundred books.  I scrolled through the list and chose the following ten:

1.  Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

2.  Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

3.  Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

4.  Ice Palace by Edna Ferber

5.  Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver

6.  Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton

7.  Web of the City by Harlan Ellison

8.  Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym

9.  Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

10. Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote

I was surprised by the high quality of the novels published in 1958 and I suspect anyone who types in their birth year followed by Goodreads into the search engine will have the same experience.  Really great books are published every year.

As for the ten I chose I may not post about all of them but I will try to read them all and Breakfast at Tiffany's is already on my Back to the Classics list.  Six of these writers I have read before, though not their above novels.  The remaining four (Alan Sillitoe, Robert Traver, Anya Seton and Chinua Achebe) I have yet to read but I am looking forward to doing so.  

Finally, the fun of choosing from Goodreads ten of the most popular books published the year you were born is you end up with an interesting mix of novels.  I was pleased to see Harlan Ellison published a novel in 1958.  I am not a science fiction fan but Harlan wrote non-fiction as well which I very much enjoyed.  He was not only a talented writer but quite an interview guest! 😄  He passed away recently and his writing and his voice are greatly missed.