The last book that I loved was Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I have tried for the better part of three days to figure out how to write this review/adoration. I wanted to write some grand theory or expound on some deep wisdom gained through the reading of this book. I wanted to write something about this book that hadn’t already been written.
I thought about how I identified with the book’s two main characters – the narrator and Holly Golightly. I tried writing about the Hollys I’ve known in my life – those people you’re drawn to, who seem almost magical, until you get close enough to realize how sad their lives really are. I thought I might write about the narrator’s preoccupation with finding a home – a place to belong – and comparing it to my early life as a military brat and my longing for a place of my own.
But, in the end, what it really comes down to is that this is just a damned great story. The first time I read it, a few weeks ago, I made it through in two sittings. Granted, it’s only about 100 pages long, but for me and my schedule these days, that’s pretty impressive. And every time I’ve picked it up since I haven’t been able to put it down. In the course of trying to write this essay, I would dive in, looking for a line of text to prove one of my grand theories, only to come up for air some time later, realizing three things: (1) whatever theory I had been trying to prove was now thoroughly disproven; (2) I had read about half the book again; and, (3) that I was supposed to be back at work ten minutes ago.
Reading it is like having a friend or someone you’ve never met sit down next to you at a party or at the park or on a train and say, “I just have to tell you this story.” If you think about it, that’s what it actually is, there’s no “like” about it. The story begins when an old friend has called the narrator to his bar, producing a picture of a sculpture that looks a lot like Holly. From there, the narrator goes on to tell us, the readers, the story of his relationship with her. It is the story of man, the narrator, reflecting on his relationship with this woman, Holly Golightly. And isn’t that the essence of what a story truly is – a reflection on a relationship? (See, I did get one of those grand theories in.)
I think the thing that impressed me most about this book, however, is how intensely human it is. The movie–which I would be remiss in not mentioning–had always struck me as a bit silly. But there is nothing silly about this story at all. Capote has managed to produce a book full of people (as he often, if not always, did)–not characters, not caricatures, but people. Even the people Holly describes as “rats” and the people we never see, like Sally Tomato and Fred, have some bit of empathy extended towards them. It is this, I think, that gives the story life and makes it more than just the sum of the words on its pages.