Review of Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany'sBreakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He’d been put together with care, his brown head and bullfighter’s figure had an exactness, a perfection, like an apple, an orange, something nature has made just right.” (From BAT)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is somewhere between a novella and a long short story, and it is easy to dismiss it as a feathery, disposable product of a self-conscious, would-be debutante looking to secure his place in New York café society;* what fan of Serious Literature, of Dostoevsky and Dickens, would find in such a slender volume anything but a momentary diversion? But the work shines like its heroine all the more for the fact that it only seems so lightweight, that it and she capture such oceans of human need and forgiveness and ugliness in what appear to be such trifles.

It’s a marvelous book, for the character of Holly Golightly (who ranks, to adapt Hemingway, among the many discoveries Man has made about himself)** and for the fact that it is composed almost entirely of sentences like that beginning this review: not too long, not too short, unassuming but perfectly clear, as tricky for a great writer as a drawn out note for a concert violinist. I’ve heard it said from a personal authority that Capote is one for the only writers to give F. Scott Fitzgerald a run for his money; this is true, and my only addition will be that this comparison is so inviting for the fact that both writers capture fleeting, important feelings that happen when one is too young to appreciate and too old to forget, and their melancholy mood is more difficult perhaps than either comedy or tragedy.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; it is a masterwork on structuring and telling a story; it is a miracle of balance and precision, delicate, tasteful, perfect as the jewelry at its namesake. I cannot imagine how many years of practice and preparation Capote gave to be able to write this book, but he reached his mark. Sometimes it is nature that makes things just right and sometimes it is art.

*I’d come across Capote not through his writing but through the pair of recent films detailing the circumstances around his research for In Cold Blood; this did a great injustice to the man, for despite the age’s tendency in biography to show warts and all, we’d all like to be remembered for our best moments, and for all his apparent ego and delight in fashionable company I doubt that Capote would have put many things ahead of his chosen craft or its marvelous result.

**please do forgive the masculine pronouns; it does sound so much less sonorous if it is adapted too far from Hemingway’s words.

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