Daily Archives: July 23, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Just finished reading “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and let out a long sigh right after with a smile on my face. The ending may not necessarily be your typical happy-ending, nonetheless it is delightful. It was a re-read for me, for about like the 4th time and every time I have read it, I have found something different in it. While reading it this time I couldn’t separate the movie from the book. Audrey and Peppard kept flashing in front of me as I was reading the book and it felt nice. As I type this so-called review I am listening to “Moon River” [instrumental] and watching Audrey in the opening credits. I love the book. According to me, no one can ever write a novella of such force [besides Marquez and Murakami] than that of Capote. As Norman Mailer said about it, “I wouldn’t want to change any word of it. Its just perfect”, that’s exactly how I feel about it.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – if you already do not know what its about, may be because you haven’t read it – the plot is simple: It is about lost dreams, sometimes unrequited love and a whole lot of wit, profundity and the chance to go the whatever length in order to get what one wants. It is about Holiday Golightly [love the play of words] and her life or rather a fragment of her life, as seen through the eyes of the narrator Paul. Paul who loves Holly like all the other men in her life. Holly, who is also an escort/call girl. A girl who is all of twenty and possesses the wisdom of a thirty-year old without losing her naivety. Who believes that one mustn’t betray friends, no matter what. Who jumps into a cab and visits “Tiffany & Co.” when she gets the `mean reds’. Holly is everything and more. She is promiscuous. She is brazen. She does things like stealing masks and as Billy Joel would put it, “She’s always a woman to me”…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella with many layers to it. Abandonment, loneliness, the need to belong and yet not be chained at the same time, the delight in the unorthodox and last but not the least about not loving a wild thing.

As Holly says in the book,

Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell…That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky

The book was written by Capote at the peak of his career. The somewhat “curious” title Breakfast at Tiffany’s was inspired by a man from out-of-town that Capote heard about, who was “ignorant of New York”. When the man was asked to pick from the best restaurants in New York where to eat breakfast, he replied: “Well, let’s have breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which was the only place he knew of.

Written in 1958, it portrays a world in which women were invariably best seen and not heard, and totally reliant on men for money and worldly comforts. And yet Capote has created a female character that is largely independent and emotionally strong, although she’s vulnerable too (loneliness, depression and desperation are hinted at). While she might be having a lot of fun, she’s also on the run from a past that is forever trying to catch up with her as she tries to find a place that makes her feel as happy as Tiffany’s does.

All in all, this short novella is a joy to read. Capote’s writing is typically rich and lyrical. He describes this woman in such a way that you get the sense he has moulded her on someone that intrigued him, that held some allure or had an aura of mysticism that left a deep impression.

From A to X: A Story in Letters by John Berger

Alright. So I finally finished reading “From A to X: A Story in Letters” by John Berger and it was nice. It was not an awesome piece of writing or something to write home about, however it felt nice reading parts of it. What is it about? Well, it is about letters literally written from a wife to her husband who is in prison for being a part of a terrorist group for two life sentences. So she sets out writing him letters about the life she is leading, the daily ongoings in their town Suse, who died, who is living, about her work at the pharmacy and above all she keeps reminding him about their love.

It is a sparsely love story though. I wanted to know more about the characters. Their lives, their tales, their emotions, what they go through when a country is at war, when its men are imprisoned – I wanted to know it all and sadly this short book did not give me that insight.

The Lonely A’ida writes to Xavier (hence from A to X). We see Xavier’s notes made at the back of the letters which are of a political subtext and bits and pieces of his affection for his lover. There is so much longing in some of the sentences that I could not help but cry.

“Now I look down at my hands that want to touch you and they seem obsolete because they haven’t touched you for so long.”

“No other man is like you. Everything is made of the same stuff, and everyone is put together differently.”

There is a lot of caring in the book – almost to counter effect the cruelty and indifference of the world. This is the first fiction form that I am reading which is written by Berger. I have only read his essays and “Ways of Seeing” earlier. Berger sees keenly and pens what most writers according to me miss sometimes. For instance, when A’ida speaks of the neighbor, a young woman whose lover was hauled out of bed, taken to the river Zab and shot. Months later the same woman notices someone on television who bears an uncanny resemblance to her dead lover and this sighting more than the actual killing undoes her.

At the end of the day, while I closed the book and went to bed, I thought of A’ida and Xavier. Of how I wanted them to meet. And of how I did not. Because then there would be no magic left.