Monday, February 19, 2007

#11 - Breakfast At Tiffany's

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.
We read Truman Capote's novella as a part of our 1001 Books club at work. I finished it while at the spa with my stepmother a few weeks back, but it's taken me a bit longer to complete the other short stories included in the collection.

I enjoyed "Breakfast at Tiffany's" immensely, both because of Capote's power as a storyteller and his ability to create characters that may be have questionable moral cores but are still utterly fascinating. I'm going to confess that I've never seen the film, but I have got it at home now to watch this week, so using that as a reference and/or point of discussion will have to wait. Holly Golightly, iconic, ironic, desperate even, is such an electric character that it's impossible not to sympathize with her, regardless of whether or not you like her and/or support her actions.

The Norman Mailer quote on the back of my Vintage edition, states that Capote 'is the most perfect writer of [his] generation. He writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm.' There is no way I can say this any better or agree any more heartily. If I were still in grad school, I would have loved to have studied Capote's style: the grace and impact of his sentence structure, his use of language, his ability to create compelling metaphors. The skill in his writing seems unparalleled in modern American fiction, but maybe I'm making sweeping generalizations, because I haven't read ALL of the writers of his generation.

I loved Holly Golightly. I loved her sass and her style, her unsympathetic actions, her selfishness, her drinking habits, her large sunglasses and her ability to attract and repel attention on a whim. I loved how the narrator love, love, loves her but can't really get it out, or maybe he doesn't want to. I got caught up in the world in which she lives and ultimately escapes from, thinking, again, how magical it must have been to live in NYC at that time.

And on the whole, I'm still as in love with Capote as ever, especially after reading "A Christmas Memory," with its haunting sadness, rampant poverty of everything except imagination, and its sad sense of tragedy. I highly recommend this collection; even if it's not heartbreaking in the traditional sense, the writing is just so delicious that it makes your heart ache—in that good way.

So many books I read these days feel rushed and unfinished. They feel like they need time and attention, focus and re-edits, and not once when I'm reading Capote do I feel this way. I feel like he's paid particular attention to every single word, to how it sits in a sentence or feels on the page. For once, I feel like the fable, as 1001 Books refers to the story, was included because it's a little bit of a revolution on the page: a freethinking, feeling and sexually explicit woman makes her own way in the world free of society's structure, which must have been shocking at the time of publication? Regardless, I think I am a better person for having read this book, which I would imagine is the true test of the 1001 Books list.

So where I am I now on the list? I've added two more I think, which takes me to 124. A very, very long way to go still.

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