Thursday, 24 March 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

Holly Golightly is one of the most famous characters in fiction, due in no small part to the film starring Audrey Hepburn. I've seen pictures and clips, but, to the best of my memory I've never seen the film so I came to the book with less preconceptions than I might.

Breakfast in Tiffany's is a frothy confection bubbling like champagne but remember there is emptiness inside each bubble.

Holly Golightly glitters brightly because all her energy is invested in her surface. What lies underneath is too painful and is in chaos like the inside of her apartment.

"She was on her knees poking under the bed. After she'd found what she was looking for, a pair of lizard shoes, she had to search for a blouse, a belt, and it was a subject to ponder, how, from such wreckage, she evolved the eventual effect: pampered, calmly immaculate, as though she'd been attended by Cleopatra's maids."

Holly is introduced in a photo of "an odd wood sculpture",  having boy's hair and doesn't have the key to her own room. Her business card says 'travelling'. She steals masks from Woolworths. It seems to me that she is really a cypher  - keeping the world dancing around her with brilliant stories but wary if anyone tries to look under the surface.

But under the surface there lurks an altogether darker world. Holly's initial ticket to riches is Rusty Trawler, a 'preserved infant' who looked as if "he'd been born, then expanded".  "An orphan, a millionaire, and a celebrity" "he had caused his godfather custodian to be arrested on charges of sodomy". He sounds as much like the husk of a discarded identity as a person.

Holly is a confection of words, empty spaces and glittering surfaces - Tiffany's is where you go to find glittering jewels set into confections of silver and gold. Holly belongs there. But jewelry can be fragile:

"It was as though her eyes were shattered prisms, the dots of blue and grey and green like broken bits of sparkle"

Many of the names in the book feel spun out of a desire for unreality rather than reality - Rusty Trawler, Sally Tomato, Sapphia Spanella, Holly Golightly - they sound like the cast of a transvestite revue.
And Holly has a one eyed cat - well - Shake, Rattle and Roll.

Worth reading for many of the sentences in themselves, worth reading for the innuendo - Breakfast at Tiffany's is a short, glittering, but fragile novella of emptiness and despair told in the most offhand way.

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