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Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
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Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958)

by Truman Capote

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I hadn't read anything by Truman Capote before this, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a narrative that completely absorbs, marvellous characters, and some really wonderful ways of describing things. A book that makes me want to read more by the author. ( )
  AngelaJMaher | Jun 22, 2018 |
I finally know-- no one had breakfast at Tiffany's! Holly Golightly is a beautiful social butterfly in the narrators building. She is young and entertains men most evenings. She admittedly likes older, rich men. In getting to know our protagonist, she tells of her hard, poor childhood and he discovers himself falling in love with her. But he starts hearing she is not who or what she says she is. Her 'husband' comes looking for her. She ends up arrested for part of a mafia conspiracy. Then, she disappears. ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 21, 2017 |
Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Reclam, Paperback, 2012.

12mo. 157 pp. Edited by Herbert Geisen with notes, Editor's Note [p. 135], Notes [pp. 137-144], Bibliography [pp. 145-147], and Afterword [pp. 149-157].

First published, 1958.
Reclam edition, 1989.

Inhalt [Contents]

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Editorische Notiz [Editor's Note]
Anmerkungen [Notes]
Literaturhinweise [Bibliography]
Nachwort [Afterword]

==================================================​

You just have to love a girl – not a woman, a girl; and this is not a term of endearment! – whose name is Holiday Golightly. No name could be more appropriate. She goes lightly through a life that’s nothing short of holiday. It’s easier to say what she has not been. For her stupendous CV includes leaving home at the ripe age of 14 and marrying one Doc Golightly, a horse doctor from Tulip, TX, with plenty of children from his first marriage; a fling with Cecile B. DeMille, Gary Cooper and movie stardom in the good ol’ Wild West of Hollywood; a girl-about-New York with a rather high-class clientele; a professional prison visitor, weather forecast reporter and traveller (mostly to the powder room); and a would-be wife of a German-Brazilian diplomat. Quite a life for a girl in her twenties!

Why does she, and her nameless cat, never really settle down? Well, partly because powers beyond their control. But also partly, and mostly, because nothing really feels like Tiffany’s. Holly doesn’t just want to have breakfast there. She wants to live there, especially when she is assailed by “the mean reds” (far worse than the blues, mind you):

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.

As one minor character describes her with deadly accuracy: “She’s crazy. A phony. But a real phony, you know?” This is quite true. Holly is not flighty, promiscuous or anything like that. These are superficial descriptions you can read in superficial reviews. She is genuinely incapable of distinguishing between reverie and reality. That makes her profoundly insecure, never mind that she hasn’t the least idea of her predicament. There is something pathetic and timelessly relevant in all this. Let our first-person narrator, a brilliant but struggling writer of course, explain in more detail and by way of a most enlightening comparison:

Watching her, I remembered a girl I’d known in school, a grind, Mildred Grossman. Mildred: with her moist hair and greasy spectacles, her stained fingers that dissected frogs and carried coffee to picket lines, her flat eyes that only turned toward the stars to estimate their chemical tonnage. Earth and air could not be more opposite than Mildred and Holly, yet in my head they acquired a Siamese twinship, and the thread of thought that had sewn them together ran like this: the average personality reshapes frequently, every few years even our bodies undergo a complete overhaul – desirable or not, it is a natural thing that we should change. All right, here were two people who never would. That is what Mildred Grossman had in common with Holly Golightly. They would never change because they’d been given their character too soon; which, like sudden riches, leads to a lack of proportion: the one had splurged herself into a top-heavy realist, the other a lopsided romantic. I imagined them in a restaurant of the future, Mildred still studying the menu for its nutritional values, Holly still gluttonous for everything on it. It would never be different. They would walk through life and out of it with the same determined step that took small notice of those cliffs at the left.

This is fine writing, incisively ironic and powerful without ostentation. So is Mr Capote’s briskly efficient story-telling and truly uncanny ability to bring to life people in just a few lines of description or dialogue. Who can forget O.J. Berman, the hairy creature with his “dwarf-big” head, “truly elfin ears” and “Pekingese eyes”? He is by way of being a big shot in Hollywood, and he talks just as glibly as you would expect. Who can forget Mr Capote’s devastating description of men in the presence of a woman taller than most of them: “They straightened their spines, sucked in their stomachs; there was a general contest to match her swaying height.” (Mr Berman himself had “an aspiring mist in his eye”.) This monument of womanhood is “Mag W-w-wildwood, from Wild-w-w-wood, Arkansas. That’s hill country.” But even she, hilarious fool as she is, cannot compare with the gloriously named Rutherfurd “Rusty” Trawler. Just look at him!

There wasn’t a suspicion of bone in his body; his face, a zero filled in with pretty miniature features, had an unused, a virginal quality: it was as if he'd been born, then expanded, his skin remaining unlined as a blown-up balloon, and his mouth, though ready for squalls and tantrums, a spoiled sweet puckering. But it was not appearance that singled him out; preserved infants aren't all that rare. It was, rather, his conduct; for he was behaving as though the party were his: like an energetic octopus, he was shaking martinis, making introductions, manipulating the phonograph. [...] “I’m hungry,” he announced, and his voice, retarded as the rest of him, produced an unnerving brat-whine that seemed to blame Holly.

All the same, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is pretty much Holly Golightly’s one-girl show. Shrewd rather than intelligent, suffering from heavy brother complex, and completely unable to face reality, Holly should be an insufferable character. It’s a tribute to Mr Capote’s writing powers that she is not. Indeed, she is quite charming and memorable, occasionally even lovable. But she is not affecting or tragic; and her mental disease (for it is just that), though more common than generally recognised, is seldom encountered to such a high degree outside lunatic asylums. This is the chief drawback of this slender, very readable and even more enjoyable novella. Personally, I didn’t much care what happened to Holly after the pleasantly open ending. I’m glad to have known her, and I really enjoyed her vivacious company and reflections on sundry subjects from men and horses to dykes and free love. But I didn’t fall in love with her. And I’m not anxious to read anything else by her creator.

By way of conclusion, it must be said that the sleek and glossy Hollywoodization is not even a poor adaptation. It is a completely different set of variations on a vaguely similar plotline and a few bits of dialogue, but with very different characters. It is infinitely weaker than the original. Much of the bite, by turns bawdy and brutal, of Mr Capote’s prose has been emasculated on the screen. By all means do see the movie. It has Audrey Hepburn in that iconic black dress and New York empty in the morning. Both are worth the price of admission. The rest ranges from passable comic additions (Mr Yunioshi) to complete disasters (the ending). But that’s another story for another review!

Note on the edition

Reclam’s editorial work is of the usual high quality. I really envy the German students of English. I wish I’d had their opportunities in my native language in the beginning of my quest to conquer the English tongue (some of its lower peaks anyway). Mr Capote’s numerous references to literature, cinema, New York and what not are patiently explained in 83 endnotes (Anmerkungen), even though most of them are devoid of deeper meaning. Zillions of tricky words and phrases are deciphered in footnotes on every single page. Herr Geisen’s Afterword is not entirely devoid of the usual academic miasma, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating biographical essay for newcomers to Truman Capote. It goes without saying that the text is complete and unabridged. It was reprinted from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A Short Novel and Three Stories, New York: Random House, 1958. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Sep 4, 2017 |
The original Manic Pixie Dream Girl. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
Love Capote's writing, fun and brisk novella about a socialite and her neighbour who is fascinated by her. ( )
  brakketh | Feb 21, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (38 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Capote, Trumanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blixen, KarenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Folch i Camarasa, RamonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golüke, GuidoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grøgaard, Johan FredrikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammar, BirgittaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hämäläinen, InkeriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kivivuori, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murillo, EnriqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peterson, MarieForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zerning, HeidiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jack Dunphy
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I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This entry should contain copies containing "Breakfast at Tiffany's" ONLY - please beware that there are very common editions containing this short novel as well as three stories (which is often not noted on the cover!)! Thanks!
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Book description
The story follows a young writer and his memory of an eccentric, charming call girl named Holly Golightly in Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067960085X, Hardcover)

Contains:

Breakfast at Tiffany's
House of Flowers
A Diamond Guitar
A Christmas Memory

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:18 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Holly Golightly es, tal vez, el personaje mas cautivador creado por este maestro de la seduccion que era Truman Capote. Atractiva sin ser linda, tras haber rechazado una carrera de actriz en Hollywood, Holly se convierte en una de las figuras del Nueva York mas sofisticado. Mezcla de picardia e inocencia, de astucia y autenticidad, se contenta con vivir el dia, sin pasado, no queriendo pertenecer a nada ni a nadie, sintiendose desterrada en todas partes, sonando siempre en ese paraiso que para ella es Tiffany's, la famosa joyeria neoyorquina. A la novela corta del titulo la acompanan tres cuentos no menos extraordinarios: Una casa de flores, Una guitarra de diamantes y Un recuerdo navideno."--Amazon.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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