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Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) by Truman Capote

Audrey Hepburn was a proto-Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's

Book Review
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958)
by Truman Capote

     Holly Golightly is one of the original Manic Pixie Dream Girls, she is even listed on the wikipedia table which contains examples.  Audrey Hepburn played in her in her iconic turn in the movie version of the book, and it is fair to say that it some version of the picture above that leaps to mind when I think of Breakfast at Tiffany's, either film or book version.  The book is a novella, maybe one hundred pages long.  It's told from the perspective of "Fred" a Capote-esque narrator struggling as a writer in World War II era New York City.   His downstairs neighbor is Holly Golightly, who like many other Manic Pixie Dream Girls is both irresistibly attractive to a wide variety of men, but who has more fraught relationships with members of her own gender.  This characteristic of hers is manifested in the parties she throws in her apartment, which typically have only one female guest (Golightly).

  Breakfast at Tiffany's has a reputation as being a work of light fiction, but the book is darker than that reputation.  As is gradually revealed, Golightly is a former child bride from Arkansas, who fled her (admittedly not terrible under the circumstances) her "probably illegal" wedding for Hollywood, then wound up in New York City.  She is enmeshed in a conspiracy to allow a jailed mobster to run his rackets from inside Sing Sing.  In the end, she flees indictment for South America, never to be seen again.

  Capote was already famous before the publication of Breakfast at Tiffany's, but his critical reputation wasn't truly cemented until after his magisterial true crime opus, In Cold Blood.  In Cold Blood would also be his last decent book.  Like his contemporary J.D. Salinger, the lack of finished works turns Capote into another mid century "What If", firmly ensconced in the canon as the result of one masterpiece and another less masterpiece, but not a top flight author for the ages.

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