Lawyer's Reviews > Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
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Breakfast at Tiffany's: Truman Capote's Novella of Love or Something Like It

"If she was in this city I'd have seen her. You take a man that likes to walk, a man like me, a man's been walking in the streets going on ten or twelve years, and all those years he's got his eye out for one person, and nobody's ever her, don't it stand to reason she's not there? I see pieces of her all the time, a flat litle bottom, any skinny girl that walks fast and straight--...

It's just that I didn't know you'd been in love with her. Not like that."


So it is we know that Holly Golightly is gone, that she's been gone for years. And she had her effect on Joe Bell, the bartender at that little place down on Lexington Avenue in the Big Apple.

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Yeah, there's Joe's place. Look hard enough, it's one of those little places tucked away. You probably can't see it. One of those Yellow Cabs is hiding it. Yeah, Joe had it bad. Most men who knew her did, unless they just wanted to use her. There's always that niggling little thought on the nature of what love really is. That it is pure and natural or that it can be purchased. Anything is possible, after all, because everything is negotiable.

Truman Capote first published Breakfast at Tiffany'sin the November, 1958 issue of Esquire Magazine.

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It was considered too obscene for Capote's usual sources for periodical publication, Harper's Baazar and Mademoiselle. After all, it's open to question as to whether Holly is a prostitute. And being a woman who speaks her mind, she wishes she could have a bull dyke for a roommate because they make such excellent housekeepers. Such language would never do, so it was off to Esquire. Random house followed suit, publishing "Tiffany's" as a novella.

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What man hasn't known and loved a Holly Golightly. I have. I lost her. She was hit and killed by a drunk driver--hit her on the wrong side of the road. It was head on. She never had a chance. She was driving home on a Sunday evening, after dinner with her parents, her adopted parents.

She shared several characteristics with Holly Golightly. She didn't know her real parents. She enjoyed men. Her hair was that shining perfect blond with bands of white that made her always look as though the sun shone directly on her head and hers alone. She liked her men older, too, like Holly. Maybe it was being adopted, not knowing where she came from, not knowing where she truly belonged.

But Holly Golightly had taken a new identity, running away from Tulip, Texas, married at the age of fourteen to Doc Barnes, a veterinarian. Her real name is Lula Mae Barnes, just as Capote's mother's name had been Lillie Mae Faulk before she took a more sophisticated name, Nina, after she married Cuban business man Joe Capote.

I attended her funeral, one of so many, her male coterie. But it was when the minister pulled out a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit and began to read from it that I was stunned. For I gave her that book, in the hope, the dream that she would realize if you love anything enough it will become alive. She kept that book all the many years we were apart. Perhaps on some days she thought of me. I know that I still think of her and on some days, like Joe Bell, the bartender, I see bits and pieces of her as I walk the city streets, especially when the sun illuminates the gold, the white, the platinum of a feminine head of hair as if it showed on no other person on boulevard, no matter how bright the sun.

Oh, you say Holly Golightly was a brunette--like Audrey Hepburn. Well, that was Blake Edwards' idea of what Holly Golightly looked like. But it wasn't Capote's idea who should play her. It was Marilyn Monroe. No question. It was that blonde hair, almost platinum. But Capote only sold the film rights. He maintained no control over the direction or production of the film.

Capote was such a wonderful dancer. I can still remember photographs of him swirling Marilyn across the dance floor.

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But Lee Strausberg told Marilyn playing Holly Golightly, a prostitute, wouldn't be good for her career. Monroe turned down the role for "The Misfits." It would be her last film. But that's another story.

History took its course. Henry Mancini composed "Moon River" for the score. George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn had chemistry. Following its release in 1961, Edwards' work became one of the iconic American films. However, it bears little resemblance to Capote's work, although Audrey Hepburn is stunning in that little black dress.

It was not uncommon that movies made from Faulkner's books premiered in Oxford, Mississippi. One, to Faulkner's chagrin, bore so little comparison to his original work, when called to the stage to make opening remarks, Faulkner said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the film you're about to see bears absolutely no resemblance to the book I wrote from which the title of this film was taken." He walked off stage and out of the theatre. I can't imagine Capote taking that approach, he was still connected to a famous film that led to further sales of his work. Perhaps it was that desire for fame that ultimately destroyed Capote.

Of course, in the novella, the young writer is unpublished. Holly takes it upon herself to make him famous by introducing him to her Hollywood agent. In the movie, Peppard is a kept man, whose, shall we say, sponsor, is played by Patricia Neal, who is known to Holly as 2E, the lady's apartment number. And, of course, the movie ends happily ever after with George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn embracing in the rain and having found "Cat" whom Holly had kicked out of the taxi cab.

But Capote tells Holly's view regarding love, or whatever feeling she is capable of describing as love.

"Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell," Holly advised him. "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."


Truman Capote considered Holly Golightly his favorite character. I think he was right in his feelings. Of course, Capote, has said that the narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany's was gay. In fact, it has been repeatedly surmised that Holly Golightly is the literary embodiment of Christopher Isherwood's Sally Bowles. What divine decadence. The movie would never have ended the way it did, had Capote maintained creative control.

Let's just say this one will always touch a nerve in me. This one is for all the Holly Golightlys in the world and the Joe Bells who have the sense to listen to them, and I offer it with all the heartfelt sympathy I can muster for those who can't understand what it means to love a wild thing.


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Reading Progress

January 1, 2010 – Shelved
June 13, 2012 – Started Reading
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: 20th-century
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: 1940s
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: love
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: romance
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: sexuality
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: southern-literature
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: truman-capote
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: world-war-two
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: youth
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
June 17, 2012 – Shelved as: new-york-new-york
June 17, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 57 (57 new)


Kathy One of the best reviews I have ever read. Captures the nuances of many levels of love, loss and loneliness. The personal story adds to the universality of Capote's story and characters.


Jeffrey Keeten Excellent, heart felt review Sir Michael. I remember liking the movie, but it has been so long since I've seen it. My memory of the book is overshadowed by the movie. I have a solution...reread the book.


Richard Derus How very endearing the review is. Charmant in that untranslatable French way that Capote loved.


Lawyer Kathy wrote: "One of the best reviews I have ever read. Captures the nuances of many levels of love, loss and loneliness. The personal story adds to the universality of Capote's story and characters."

Dear Kathy, Thanks so much for your kind words. This was not an easy one to write. When I first read "Breakfast at Tiffany's" I did not know my "Holly." Now, more than thirty years after her death, Capote's words rolled over me with a weight I did not anticipate, nor was I prepared for the memories of my special friend that Capote's words so vividly brought back to me.
Mike


Lawyer Richard wrote: "How very endearing the review is. Charmant in that untranslatable French way that Capote loved."

Dear Richard,
Many thanks for your comment and your time in reading the review. My friend was a most special woman with a joy for living. I will always miss her.


Lawyer Jeffrey wrote: "Excellent, heart felt review Sir Michael. I remember liking the movie, but it has been so long since I've seen it. My memory of the book is overshadowed by the movie. I have a solution...reread t..."

Thanks, Sir Geoffrey--Excellent movie. Much better book. *grin* I am hoping to see some of the earlier Capote being nominated by some of the Southern Literary Trail Group. Oh, heck. Nominate something. *grin*


message 7: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie So very sad, I'm glad she still had The Velveteen Rabbit. Nice review Mike. Oh I loved the movie - Audrey Hepburn is wonderful in it...as everyone knows.


message 8: by knig (new)

knig Great review. I've always felt that I too acquire an extra special conncetion to a book when it touches me on a personal level, almost as if though it were written specially for me. (Although I've also been chastised for this: the opposing argument was that if I only ever seek out books I'm sure to be in sync with, I'll never expand my world view. I hasten to add this has nothing to do with the review: i went off on a tangent). Interesting background to the film, and like Bonnie, I loved it: post factum, I can't imagine anyone else except Audrey Hepburn in that role.


message 9: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Great review Mike! You are quite the Capote scholar now!


Lawyer s.penkevich wrote: "Great review Mike! You are quite the Capote scholar now!"

With miles and miles to go before I sleep. Perhaps Faulkner's life was considerably easier than Capote's. While Capote certainly created difficulties for himself, they germinated from seeds planted by the abandonment of his family. Faulkner always maintained the strength of family and it shows much more clearly than it does in the writings of Capote. Were it not for his mother's Faulk Family connections, I do not know that Capote would have survived to adulthood.


message 11: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich That is an excellent point, and really shows the importance of family, which, as you mention, is pivotal to much of Faulkner's work. Too bad that the drive for fame took such a burden. I laughed about Faulkner dismissing the film for being so far removed from his actual book. Faulkner seemed to write for himself and irrelevant to the reader, and put his stock into art for the sake of art, perhaps sheltering him from that strive for fame that you mention destoryed Capote. Maybe the desire to be true to art is what led Faulkner to the bottle though, which had a devestating effect on his mortality. Sorry for the rant, you really got me thinking though.

That is fascinating about Monroe being asked to turn down the role. And, as always, it is such a shame authors don't get more say in the film versions of their books. But then again, it keeps us coming back to books just to point out the flaws of hollywood.


Lawyer B0nnie wrote: "So very sad, I'm glad she still had The Velveteen Rabbit. Nice review Mike. Oh I loved the movie - Audrey Hepburn is wonderful in it...as everyone knows."

Thanks, Bonnie. And I'm glad she had the gift of The Velveteen Rabbit. But, yes. It was a sad occasion. I remember thinking, "This should be you, looking down at me. I'm the older one, not you."


Lawyer Bird Brian wrote: "This is a hell of a review Mike. Thank you for sharing."

Many thanks, Brian. I appreciate your comment very much.


Lawyer Knig-o-lass wrote: "Great review. I've always felt that I too acquire an extra special conncetion to a book when it touches me on a personal level, almost as if though it were written specially for me. (Although I've ..."

Many thanks for your comment and the like of the review. I rather like a good tangent. It often leads to more very good conversation.

I don't actively seek out books that I know will synch with my beliefs, or my emotional state. But, I'm often surprised at how often it happens. Then I think of James Baldwin's remarkable quote on life and reading:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”


That about says it all.


message 15: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue wonderful quote Mike. Thanks for that and for the amazing review. I obviously have a lot of reading to catch up on as far as Capote is concerned.


message 16: by mark (new)

mark monday excellent.

must say, i despise the film because of its racism.

however, i did enjoy this book. and i love your review.


Lawyer Sue wrote: "wonderful quote Mike. Thanks for that and for the amazing review. I obviously have a lot of reading to catch up on as far as Capote is concerned."

Thanks Sue, That's my favorite passage from the book.


Lawyer mark wrote: "excellent.

must say, i despise the film because of its racism.

however, i did enjoy this book. and i love your review."


Picking Mickey Rooney to play Mr. Yunioshi pulled a lot of criticism, more than any other aspect of the movie. Rightfully so. Many thanks for your reading and commenting.


message 19: by mark (new)

mark monday which is a shame, because Audrey Hepburn was delightful.


Maggie Fantastic review. I love the book. Like the film - but would like to have sees MM as Holly Golightly.


Lawyer Maggie wrote: "Fantastic review. I love the book. Like the film - but would like to have sees MM as Holly Golightly."

Maggie, thanks for your like and comment. I'm reading Music for Chameleonsright now. On the new cover of the lastest edition is a photograph of Capote dancing with Monroe. One segment of the book is a chapter on Monroe. It is called "A Beautiful Child." It was an appropriate title.


message 22: by Elle (new)

Elle Thornton This moving piece takes the review to a new level: in fact you may have invented a new genre entirely. Your personal loss with its pain so suddenly fresh again, the mixing of memoir with the long-ago and so larger-than-life author and stars, creates a loving analysis of human beings on several levels. This review speaks directly to the heart.
Thank you, Mike.


Lawyer Elle wrote: "This moving piece takes the review to a new level: in fact you may have invented a new genre entirely. Your personal loss with its pain so suddenly fresh again, the mixing of memoir with the long-..."

Dear Elle, Thank you so much for reading the review and your kind remarks. Our lives change in an instant. Rarely do things turn out the way we expect. Breakfast at Tiffany's tore open an old wound. I doubt it will ever be healed, but a permanent scar remains. The first time I read this short novel, my Holly was a living, breathing creature--a wild thing I could not hold in the manner I wished. You can call me Doc. You can call me Joe. Holly's comments to Joe ring as true to me today as the day that telephone rang with news I could not bear. But my Holly will live forever in my memory.

Mike


Shovelmonkey1 Brilliant!


Lawyer Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Brilliant!"

Why, thankaverramuch, Shovelmonkey. Thanks for the read and your comment.

I'm working my way through the writings of Truman Capote. It's been especially rewarding. Reading his bio by Gerald Clarkehas added much to my understanding of Capote. Poor guy. He lived with a fear of abandonment. His childhood is a horror story of loneliness and a desire for love which he did not receive from his father, his mother, or his step father. Small wonder that the loss of love plays so predominantly in his earlier works. Currently on Music for Chameleons. I rather yawned through the first few vignettes. Then I hit "Hand Carved Coffins" which will send shudders down your spine. It is as effective as In Cold Blood and worth the price of the book alone.


Shovelmonkey1 I am an ignoramus and was unaware of his other works - have read only his most popular stuff.


message 27: by mark (new)

mark monday Hand Carved Coffins is a masterpiece, definitely. i have mixed feelings about the rest of the vignettes.


message 28: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara Terrific analysis, Mike. It was interesting to read the background of this book which I read so long ago.


Lawyer mark wrote: "Hand Carved Coffins is a masterpiece, definitely. i have mixed feelings about the rest of the vignettes."

I definitely agree. It approaches "In Cold Blood" in its power and suspense. The interview format is fascinating. The parenthetical comments add to the structure and move the plot along nicely. When I complete Chameleons, this will be the segment that draws the most comment from me.


Lawyer Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "I am an ignoramus and was unaware of his other works - have read only his most popular stuff."

I think that I have added all of his early work to the Trail library shelf. I highly recommend him. He's not always perfect. Who is? But he is a damned good writer.


Lawyer Barbara wrote: "Terrific analysis, Mike. It was interesting to read the background of this book which I read so long ago."

Many thanks, Barbara. Thank you for your time in reading and commenting as well. My next review will also be on Capote, his Music for Chameleons. I'm about half done and will definitely merit a review.


message 32: by Kelli (new) - added it

Kelli Dawkins From a Holly who's yet to be tamed..this review is destined for greatness , as is its writer...


Keshav Jindal well, i have never read a better review. I came here to review the book, but after reading your review, there is nothing which is left to be said! its nearly perfect. well done, mike.


Lawyer Keshav wrote: "well, i have never read a better review. I came here to review the book, but after reading your review, there is nothing which is left to be said! its nearly perfect. well done, mike."

Keshav, thank you for reading and your very kind comments. I urge you to review it! I'm sure you have many thoughts and reactions to share. Go for it. :)


Lawyer Kelli wrote: "From a Holly who's yet to be tamed..this review is destined for greatness , as is its writer..."

*AHEM* shuffling my feet. Staring at my toes. I can feel the flush creeping up my neck. In other words I am totally embarrassed to have missed your very kind thoughts regarding this review. Please accept my apology for not having responded before now.


Cathy DuPont Well done, my friend.


Maria I really enjoyed this review Mike and thank you so much for accepting my request. It's a pleasure to have you as a friend. Look forward for all your reading experiences.


Lawyer Maria wrote: "I really enjoyed this review Mike and thank you so much for accepting my request. It's a pleasure to have you as a friend. Look forward for all your reading experiences."

Thank you very much, Maria. I look forward to a growing friendship.


message 39: by Nidhi (new)

Nidhi Singh Beautiful review Mike!


Lawyer Nidhi wrote: "Beautiful review Mike!"

My thanks for reading and your kind comment.


Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Bowled over by this review Mike and sincerely, thankyou for all the background info on both the film and Capote. I went googling after reading it and didn't find anything to compare with what you've written here.


Sonia Loved your review.


Lawyer Sonia wrote: "Loved your review."

Thanks for reading. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the review. *smile*


Virginie Great review! I could read Breakfast at Tiffany's over and over again without getting bored of it. I watched the movie several times too. Audrey Hepburn is such a perfect Holly (I can't picture Marilyn Monroe in this part, she would have been a bit too sophisticated I guess)


Lawyer Virginie wrote: "Great review! I could read Breakfast at Tiffany's over and over again without getting bored of it. I watched the movie several times too. Audrey Hepburn is such a perfect Holly (I can..."

Virginie, thank you so much! I've read all of Capote now. He is certainly not everyone's favorite writer. But he is among mine. Without doubt, a troubled man, but a talented author.


message 46: by Jim (new)

Jim It's a blessing, albeit sometimes mixed, when a work of art converges on one personal experience. I'm inspired to pick it up - if only I could find it!

Your Faulkner anecdote reminds me of a somewhat extended treatment of him by Bennett Cerf in his memoir At Random. Faulkner felt slighted by his poor early reception in his home state and was candid about that with his publisher.

Now, off to find my copy. Thanks for your fine review.


Lawyer Jim wrote: "It's a blessing, albeit sometimes mixed, when a work of art converges on one personal experience. I'm inspired to pick it up - if only I could find it!

Your Faulkner anecdote reminds me of a somew..."


Jim, you're most welcome. Thank you for your kind words. Enjoy the read. It's a memorable one.


message 48: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol I learned a long time ago not to listen to NPR's Story Corp interviews on my way to work lest I cry whilst endeavoring to drive and have to explain the streaked makeup upon arrival at work.

I was off the road and in the parking garage when I read this review. Still... This review needs a trigger warning at least for everyone over 40.


Lawyer Carol wrote: "I learned a long time ago not to listen to NPR's Story Corp interviews on my way to work lest I cry whilst endeavoring to drive and have to explain the streaked makeup upon arrival at work.

I was..."


Thanks so much for your time in reading and your very kind comments.

It's strange, Carol. I never set out to move anyone to tears with this review. However, it has had that effect on a number of folks. It's natural for me to still get that odd lump in the throat. Time goes on. But elephants can remember, they say. I apologize for making you cry. However, in some ways it is nice to know there is enough sweetness in the world that tears can be shed as a result of literature and the memories called forth from its readers.

This morning I am sitting in an international airport flying away from a woman I came to know some would say considerably late in life. The prospect of being apart three weeks is hard on us both. We hope these few weeks will pass quickly.

I liked your comment regarding those over forty. We shouldn't be too hard on the young. However, after forty, I would have to say time gives us a special seasoning that allows us to more fully appreciate the moments both bitter and sweet.


message 50: by Jim (last edited Jun 24, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Jim after forty, time gives us a special seasoning

We got together to watch the LBJ bio-pic All The Way a couple weekends ago. To the grownups wonder, our 21 and 19 year olds couldn't get into it - even though they both know Cranston from Malcom in the Morning and Breaking Bad. He was transparently, profanely wonderful in that role.


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