Revisiting Holly Golightly: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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Remember Holly?  Black dress, ropes of pearls, impeccable posture?  Rather a socialite? That’s Hollywood Holly; Audrey Hepburn style.  Truman Capote’s original Holly, from his 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was something quite different.  In addition to unashamedly making a living as a call girl, the novel Holly had a non-Hollywood ending and her description, though similar, differed in important ways:

[T]he ragbag colors of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light.  It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker.  For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks.  Her mouth was large, her nose upturned.  A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes.  It was a face beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman.  I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was two months shy of her nineteenth birthday.

Capote himself is said to have based Holly on his friend, fashion model Dorian Leigh, and wanted Marilyn Monroe cast in the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3561782/The-story-behind-the-song-Moon-River.html.

dorian leighaudreyhepburn2pearls-marilyn-monroe

Dorian Leigh                                          Audrey Hepburn                             Marilyn Monroe

It’s difficult to think of the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s without reference to the movie.  But once you dive into the book, you will be just as enchanted by Capote’s prose as by Ms. Hepburn’s portrayal.  The novella takes place in a New York Brownstone, the summer of 1943.  The unnamed narrator, who Holly calls “Fred” in remembrance of her brother, is a writer, struggling to get published.  Miss Golightly lives upstairs in the same building and they are first acquainted, face to face, when Holly appears on his fire escape, trying to escape a “date” who has bitten her on the shoulder.  She is wearing a robe and nothing else, as the narrator discovers when she shows him the bite.  From there, a friendship develops and Holly reveals parts of her soul.

“You know those days when you get the mean reds?”

“Same as the blues?”

“No,” she said slowly.  “No, the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long.  You’re sad, that’s all.  But the mean reds are horrible.  You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of.  Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is. . . . What I’ve found does me 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.”

When our book club read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we came in character, black sunglasses and pearls to a woman.  It was fun and a nice photo op.  (I’d love to see your book club’s photos by the way!)

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Martinis

Canapés with a 1940’s flair:  like smoked salmon on rye toast, baby potatoes scooped out and filled with sour cream and topped with dill, celery stuffed with pimento cheese

Or you could just serve breakfast New York style:  mini bagels with cream cheese, omelettes, bacon (or veggie bacon).

For dessert, put out a bowl of candy hot tamales.

MUSIC

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s

She played very well, and sometimes sang too  . . . She knew all the show hits, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill; especially she liked the songs from Oklahoma!, which were new that summer and everywhere.  But there were moments when she played songs that made you wonder where she learned them, where indeed she came from.  Harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that smacked of pineywoods or prairie.  One went:  Don’t wanna sleep, Don’t wanna die, Just wanna go a-travelin’ through the pastures of the sky . . .

Don’t forget Moon River, by Henry Mancini.

Happy Reading!

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2 thoughts on “Revisiting Holly Golightly: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

  1. Man! The Tiffany in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is named after Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of the store and the 2nd cousin, twice removed of the Governor of Georgia, William Yates Atkinson!

    Explanation:
    James Tiffany
    Ebenezer Tiffany-(siblings)-Gideon Tiffany
    Comfort Tiffany-(1st cousin)-Catherine Tiffany
    Charles Lewis Tiffany-(2nd cousin)-Lucy Phelps
    Charles Lewis Tiffany-(2nd cousin once removed)-Theodora Phelps Ellis
    Charles Lewis Tiffany-(2nd cousin twice removed)-William Yates Atkinson (That’s him!)

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