Book 197: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories – Truman Capote

Capote, Truman - Breakfast at Tiffany'sYay for another book that counts for multiple challenges (Mount TBR, Back to the Classics and The Classics Club)! (It’s a doozy, sorry for the length!)

Ever since I read In Cold Blood and Other Voices, Other Rooms, I’ve wanted to read more Capote, but I haven’t. Throw in the fact that Breakfast at Tiffany’s has such an iconic place in popular culture, I had to read it at some point. Now I just need to see the film.

I didn’t realize this when I bought this copy, but it contained the novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and three short stories: House of FlowersA Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory. So for my response I’ve just written a paragraph about each under a subtitle and you can see the opening/closing lines of each at the end of the post and my recommendation is for this collection as a whole.

One thing that will always impress me about Truman Capote is his openly writing about homosexuals in his works. Writing during the height of the lavender scare in DC he was not only an open homosexual, but he included them openly in his works, but more shockingly he didn’t denigrate them. He just included them as characters.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because, I belong to it.” (84)

Does anyone know if the above quote is the origin of the “I ❤ New York” phrase or is it just a coincidence? It’s such an iconic phrase and this is such an iconic New York story, I wasn’t sure.

Apparently, as I said above, I had NO idea what this story was about. For some reason I thought it was about a debutante coming of age in New York City, and in a way it was, but not so much. I apparently only had an idea of the surface of the story and it was so much deeper and complex than that. This clearly isn’t the first ‘gold digger’ story and that’s not all this is, but it was a fascinating story and provided the world with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. And although this wasn’t her first role it is arguable her most well-known. If there is one downside to the story I felt that many of the characters maturity, or lack thereof, was obnoxious and it just made me want to smack them and make them grow up.

House of Flowers
Of the three short stories, this was my favorite. In essence it’s a mirror story to Breakfast at Tiffany’s; set in Haiti with a female protagonist who moves to the city and becomes a prostitute but wants to find love, but love that will fulfill her. Whereas in Tiffany’s Golightly flees the country (both in the sense of rural and the government) in pursuit of the impossible, Ottilie flees the rural country, but eventually returns to it for love. In this story Capote shows off one of his major strengths in writing about the outcasts of society.

A Diamond Guitar
I wasn’t really sure what to make of this story. There was a strong homosexual undertone between the main characters, but nothing was ever confirmed unless I missed it completely in a ‘I know about this but we shouldn’t discuss it’ sort of way. But again Capote discusses outcasts and degenerates (criminals) showing his ability to write about the low-of-the-low and create a beautiful story.

A Christmas Memory
I swear I’ve read this before and I might have (I’m pretty sure he uses a similar story/anecdote in his first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms). But I loved this story of course because it is again about outcasts and has a truly southern feel to it. I’m also pretty sure it has inspired other gay authors (Josh Kilmer Purcell and David Sedaris) when it comes to fruitcakes and using it literally and figuratively, but that could just be my projections.

Recommendation: A MUST READ. Truman Capote was a master at short stories. Although he does leave you wanting more he does it in such a way that you’re not asking questions about what happened, but that you’re asking questions about what the future holds. Although Breakfast at Tiffany’s wasn’t quite what I expected or wanted it was still an amazing read and the three short stories were fantastic.

Opening Line of Breakfast at Tiffany’s: “I am always drawn back to the places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.”

Closing Line of Breakfast at Tiffany’s:“Flanked by potted plants and framed by clean lace curtains, he was seated in the window of a warm-looking room: I wondered what his name was, for I was certain he had one now, certain he’d arrived somewhere he belonged. African hut or whatever, I hope Holly has, too.” (Whited out.)

Opening Line of House of Flowers: “Ottilie should have been the happiest girl Port-au-Prince.”

Closing Line of House of Flowers:“Seen from a distance, it would look as though she had come to some violent, pitiful end; and listening to Royal’s footsteps quicken to a run, she happily thought: This will give him a good scare.” (Whited out.)

Opening Line of A Diamond Guitar: “The nearest town to the prison farm is twenty miles away.”

Closing Line of A Diamond Guitar: “Now it lies under Mr. Schaeffer’s cot, where its glass diamonds are turning yellow; in the night his hand sometimes searches it out, and his fingers drift across the strings: then, the world.” (Whited out.)

Opening Line of A Christmas Memory: “Imagine a morning in late November.”

Closing Line of A Christmas Memory: “That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.” (Whited out.)

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17 thoughts on “Book 197: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories – Truman Capote

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  3. I just read Breakfast at Tiffany’s for a book club and I was surprised at how much discussion was generated out of the very short book. The volume I bought was together with Other Voices, Other Rooms (which I read in college). I had only seen the movie before this and it was interesting to see how much of a firecracker Holly Golightly truly is. I think Answered Prayers is next on my Truman Capote to read list.

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    • It is crazy how much discussion there is around this one short novel, but he really covers so much and includes topics that were well ahead of their time. I loved Other Voices, Other Rooms.

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  4. This is on my CC list, too. I don’t know if I already told you this, but I couldn’t stand In Cold Blood–I didn’t even finish reading it. BUT I have faith in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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  5. I haven’t read anything by him yet. I know, I need to. And I just scanned by book collection and I don’t own anything by him either. I feel like a horrible book lover right now.

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    • Haahaa. I’d never read anything by him until a few years ago which is shocking because I did a big paper on Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams and Capote was active at the same time and doing the same things.

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  7. I read Breakfast at Tiffanys a few years ago and was a bit disappointed by the writing, considering its stature in American literature. It’s an interesting story, but the writing seemed dated to me.

    My collection of short stories by Capote has the others you mentioned, and now I’m intrigued to read them as well. I am looking forward to In Cold Blood, though. It’s on my classics list for next year.

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    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. I think the dated portion is part of why the book is such an American classic. It’s very specific to the time and it captures one moment that couldn’t really happen at any other time in history. Capote’s an amazing author and I’m not sure if it’s from his southern heritage or his gothic influences, but his writing isn’t for everyone. I’ve a few blogger friends who loved Breakfast but hated Cold Blood. Good luck with it though (I enjoyed both)!

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