"Breakfast at Tiffany's," the novella, unfortunately suffers from being less popular than the film it inspired. A film which, while having a good dea "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the novella, unfortunately suffers from being less popular than the film it inspired. A film which, while having a good deal of charm, made a romantic comedy out of something that was never intended to be one. Having said that, the novel is an incredibly solid work of poetic, flowing prose on reflection, memory and belonging, as only Truman Capote could write. The characters of the unnamed, undefined writer and his friend the young, hurt and constantly running Holly Golightly are instantly memorable. Holly may not always be likable, but never do we fail to understand the impression she makes on her friend, the writer. Some of Holly's speeches, about loving something wild and being left to look at the sky, are wonderful. I highly recommend this little gem. ...more
"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood... I like my sister Constance... Everyone else in my family is dead." (1)
Although Shirley Jackson is now given "My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood... I like my sister Constance... Everyone else in my family is dead." (1)
Although Shirley Jackson is now given her just due as one of the most influential literary voices of the last one-hundred years, and is often described as a literary parent, of sorts, to major, even more modern voices such as Stephen King-- there has never been a voice quite like Jackson's. And her talents are on display, with beautiful, eerie force, and at their height in her last complete novel "We Have Always Lived in the Castle."
Yes, Mary Katherine Blackwood, known affectionately as Merricat, has always lived in the castle. The big, looming mansion on a solitary, secluded estate just outside of town. With a large, wandering fence spanning the outskirts of the property, locked at all times to keep the town out. Always, she has lived with her family away from the world, above. She would like to take this further, as she consistently fantasizes about how life would be "on the moon." When we first meet Mary Katherine, she informs us that her family, aside from her sister Constance, ailing Uncle Julian and her beloved cat Jonas has died. They were victims of a poisoning which happened-- curiously enough-- within their own home away from the world. Arsenic was laid in the family's sugar bowl, claiming the lives of all but Constance, Merricat and Uncle Julian. Constance, the maker of the evening's meal, has been spared any charge and the family continues to live freely, alone.
Merricat is simply put one of the most fascinating narrators (unreliable? Or nothing so simply categorized?) I've ever read. Her direct, often fantastical prose reads more like she is entering adolescence than leaving it (which, in reality, she is); and perhaps that adds even more to her power, that she will not be changed, or swayed, simply by growing up. Once, when Merricat is forced to venture into the town, the commoners, the hated for groceries, we are shown just how powerful her imagination is, and how much she relies on it to help her get through the experience: "I am walking on their bodies, I thought, we are having lunch in the garden and Uncle Julian is wearing his shawl." (10) In fact, the only way she is able to get through the experience of the town is to kill the various residents off-- in her mind.
Her life, so grounded in imagination, also relies on a form of magic, an almost individualized, nature-based witchcraft through which she lives out her own superstitions and rules for protection. Merricat shares many qualities with her beloved feline Jonas-- most notably the later half of her nickname, and that Merricat lives out part of this magical witchcraft by burying various things of meaning and for different meanings throughout the vast Blackwood property. She also takes things of value to different people-- a book of debts from her father, and later on his watch-- and places them elsewhere in nature, such as being nailed to a tree. When the unimaginably hated cousin, Charles Blackwood, first enters their home the sisters share with cat and uncle, it occurs when her father's book Merricat has nailed to the tree has fallen down. The younger Blackwood sister continues to draw on nature to use this magic to expel Charles' unwanted, transparent ways from the house, bringing water, leaves and twigs and branches into his bed. And, later on, quite possibly fire.
Charles' presence in the Blackwood home is, at the very least, problematic for several reasons. Though he is a relation, he is an outsider, who, Uncle Julian consistently reminds, is quite obviously only interested in the Blackwood fortune. Male and dominating (unlike Uncle Julian's male but wounded presence), Charles' mere presence in the house threatens everything-- and he directly threatens to end the life Merricat and Constance have made for themselves.
Just like her cat, Merricat has buried things around the property. Possessions of people she has loved. Part of Jackson's brilliance leaves the reader with constant speculation of what else, what people, Merricat may have had buried, as well. And why. Though everyone else in her family has died, Merricat barely mentions her feelings on this, or what she thinks of the memory of her parents, and the others. Perhaps the most telling glimpse into Merricat's psyche happens when she retreats one night to the family's summerhouse, which has not been used in years, and recreates a vision of her family sitting down at dinner. A vision which, quite glaringly, appears revised, the hyperbolic opposite of the way things likely, truly were. "'Mary Katherine should have anything she wants, my dear. Our most loved daughter must have anything she likes... Mary Katherine must never be punished. Must never be sent to bed without her dinner. Mary Katherine will never allow herself to do anything inviting punishment.'" (95-96) And so. Jackson leaves the reader to wonder what Mary Katherine has done to invite punishment that led her to be the way that she is, led her to do what she has done. ...more
I love Bradbury. His talents, especially the ones which bend to the darkening, orange winds of October, are beautiful, poetic odes, often to the nost I love Bradbury. His talents, especially the ones which bend to the darkening, orange winds of October, are beautiful, poetic odes, often to the nostalgic aura of childhood, adolescence and the subsequent bridge to adulthood. And his talents are in full display in "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
With this novel, Bradbury uses his poetry to write a love letter to his childhood, All Hallow's Eve, and how the rites of the autumn season had such an influence over his life. At once, this is the story of two friends growing up alongside each other, facing, for the first time, the lurking death which hangs over all of our autumn's. And, this is a story about one of the boy's father's growth while accepting-- and winning?-- over this lurking specter of death and evil.
The circus which travels by night and its cast of weird characters is so eloquently representative of fear of the coming winter, and Bradbury does not waste one character, one mirror-house, one twisted carousel to show us this. To breathe life into these characters, Bradbury unleashes his poetry, his own way of talking that so beautifully takes one back through years, to a place both reminiscent of our own youth, and a magnificently rendered historical moment of a small town, rural 1920s harvest time.
Every time I read Truman I wonder why I haven't read more of him. And I wonder why it is that the world has chosen to remember him the way they do. SoEvery time I read Truman I wonder why I haven't read more of him. And I wonder why it is that the world has chosen to remember him the way they do. So much more than the television personality he became later in life, so much more than the author behind the book the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is based on and-- I say this, without having read the work-- so much more than the writer of "In Cold Blood."
"Other Voices, Other Rooms" is, on it's own as a narrative, a milestone of a novel. Breaking ground for gay subject matter alone, when considered as a novel written by a young Truman Capote-- when he was twenty-three, no less-- the feat is even greater. There are so many ways to read this novel-- as an auto-biography of its author, a revolutionary milestone in documenting through literature the gay experience, the definition of a modern Southern Gothic-- or nothing so simple.
And the prose through which Capote accomplishes this is gorgeous. Lush, golden, sparkling hot summer breeze-- Truman's writing from start to finish here is the definition of what a brilliant talent can do. Put you in the shoes, the day of a seemingly orphaned boy, who has lost his mother and is traveling to meet his biological father. A style all his own, each word, and each sentence they compose, is a beautifully constructed piece of art that appears effortless, and effortlessly takes you to the middle of the twentieth century, to the deep south, to the expanse of Skully's Landing, to the world of young Joel Knox.
In a setting so awash with vibrancy, the characters truly manage to make the novel, while being of life rather than brighter than the world they inhabit. I won't forget Joel, his cousin Randolph or the young girl he befriends, Idabel (based, famously, on Capote's childhood friend and fellow talent Harper Lee.) It feels a rarity, that each character and her or his own, individual, story stand out so in the memory-- and also (but not because of) the relationships all of these characters have, they stand out, in their same, own way.
Here, Truman has written a classic coming of age story that only he could. Whether the child Joel's coming of age is related to some personal acceptance of his homosexuality or not, there is a proudly, openly explored view of the gay experience, through Joel's journey, and, especially, through Randolph. After finishing the novel-- and I warn any reader that I am about to discuss the novel's ending-- but before reading any criticism, I wondered-- what if. What if Joel's decision at the end, his choice to stay, is to directly mean he chose Randolph? And, if so, the acceptance of his own homosexuality? Or- what if, by staying, Joel does so and becomes romantically involved with (the much older) Randolph? Or nothing so simple? Perhaps Joel is accepting that his fate will be there, with Randolph at the Landing-- but alone? To become whatever man it is he is, or is meant to become? I don't believe I've decided, other than no such definite decision is possible.
In a novel with so many passages of beautiful writing, it was hard to decide on one to include. However, I have decided on the words to follow, which come late in the novel, from Randolph.
"Afterwards, and though at first I was careful not to show the quality of my feelings, Dolores understood intuitively what had happened: 'Strange how long it takes us to discover ourselves; I've know since first I saw you,' she said... The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell."
"In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together." (1)
There are novels you finish reading, and you know. You feel slightly, forever,"In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together." (1)
There are novels you finish reading, and you know. You feel slightly, forever, less for experiencing the loss of the novel, the loss of a loved character-- and forever slightly more for having known them. Carson McCullers' modern masterpiece "The Heart is A Lonely Hunter" is without question one of these novels. At once, the novel is a meditation on life, love and the loneliness that so often lives between in human relationships-- and an almost unbelievably wise exploration of the forces of government, religion and other politics in which we live our lives.
It is often mentioned that McCullers somehow managed to write this novel when she was 23. Twenty-three. In 1940, for whatever age she may have been, McCullers wrote a perfectly executed, spectacularly profound novel which comments on racial, sexual and gender roles in a way so beyond her years, it's almost hard to believe.
Each character we meet in her novel is painfully real, and though we meet them in the deep American south of the 1930's, we have met them before in the world where we live. At the center of the story is Mr. John Singer, a deaf mute, who lived with the friend he loved until his friend's family had him put away in an asylum. Mr. Singer befriends a number of people in the small town-- Mick, a girl of about 14, confused and searching and raging and hurting; Biff Brannon, the owner of a local cafe; Jake Blount, a rebellious spirit yearning for political, social and religious revolution; and Dr. Copeland, an African-American doctor who has held his head high on his life-long quest to better his race and his people's place in the world.
And there is so much within these characters' lives and happenings, that it does a disservice to the novel to not talk about each of the many issues so poignantly dealt with in an in-depth way which would span many pages of my own. Mr. Singer loves his friend Antonopoulos, with an all-consuming love which does not, and cannot, speak its name. Young Mick longs for all the answers she cannot even ask the questions for-- and finds her only solace in the art of classical music, and Mr. Singer's friendship. Mr. Brannon considers a great deal of poignancy on the subject of religion-- and Jake Blount rages against the political and social machines which oppress every man, woman and child in the poor south, during the time now known as the American Great Depression. And Dr. Copeland works all his life for a better future for his children and his people-- going so far as to advocate a march on Washington, DC for racial equality.
I am simply in awe of how effortlessly McCullers switches from the perspective of each character. In the passages told from Mick's point of view, the reader feels the pain, the bursting confusion of adolescence-- and the reader feels, and knows, how real the solace Mick finds in her music is; a safe place from the confusing world around her she has found herself coming of age in. And in Dr. Copeland's passages, the reader feels the oppression of the social structure upon the successful African-American physician, which is thrust upon the great thinker the doctor is-- as he tackles incredible ideas such as the writings of Karl Marx, and faces the struggles of maintaining a relationship with his grown children. And in the passages of Mr. Singer's thoughts, the reader knows how much Antonopoulous is loved. How desperate Mr. Singer is to have his friend with him, and how no other friendship, no other person, will be for him who Antonopoulous is.
All these characters are searching, longing for something, someone. There are fewer more haunting titles in literature, and more lingering prose than the lives of Mick, Mr. Singer and Dr. Copeland-- and how they look for what they feel needs to be found. As Dr. Copeland's daughter Portia, who works for Mick's family, says of Mick: "'... This afternoon you going to roam all over the place without never being satisfied. You going to traipse all around like you haves to find something lost. You going to work yourself up with excitement. Your heart going to beat hard enough to kill you because you don;t love and don't have peace. And then some day you going to bust loose and be ruined. Won't nothing help you then.'" (44)
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is one of those novels which will make you feel. With one line, McCullers broke my heart, and took her place in literature. It has been quite a long time since I have been this affected by a novel-- and I'm sure it will be some time before I experience something similar, again. "Mick cried so hard that she choked herself and her father had to beat her on the back." (305)