A re-blog of Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Hi Everyone,

I’m almost finished reading The Inquisitor’s Mark, by Dianne Salerni.  It’s an excellent read and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next!  This is the second book in a great Young Adult series.  Should be finished by tomorrow…

InquisitorsMark_revised_final

In the meantime, my Facebook Book Group and I have been having a great time talking about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote.  Here’s my post from a few months ago.  I think Truman Capote was an excellent writer and quite a personality.  It’s very interesting to see the differences between the book and the movie.  And his interviews with David Frost and Dick Cavett are very entertaining!

What’s Holly Golightly really like?

Breakfast at Tiffany's book cover

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
by Truman Capote
Rating:
4 book marks

It’s impossible not to think about Audrey Hepburn when you meet the real Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote. It’s been awhile since I watched the movie, which stars Hepburn, George Peppard and Patricia Neal. George Axelrod wrote the screenplay and the movie was directed by Blake Edwards. It’s so easy to picture Hepburn in that apartment, to hear her voice and remember her sophisticated clothes. Oh to be able to carry yourself like that…

But after a few pages, despite an accurate dialogue, I realized that Capote’s Holly is a much different and younger character and that the movie glosses over some things, embellishes others, adds a plot line and changes the ending! I’ve always remembered loving the movie, but the book is much better.

This novella, a little over one hundred pages, is really a character sketch of Holly. The narrator is Holly’s neighbor, unnamed in the book, a writer who befriends her and a few years later, tries to guess what has become of her.

And she is a girl, nineteen years old, a run-away from a sad past, who makes her money entertaining men. And she makes more money on the side visiting a Mafia boss in prison and delivering coded messages that help run a drug cartel.

I remember the movie being rather light and romantic and thinking that Holly has it all together, despite her crazy life. Her source of income is barely explained in the movie, and although Holly jokes in the book about being paid for her “trips to the powder room,” there’s a deeper sadness in her and a roughness just below the surface that makes a much more complex character.

The narrator has a platonic relationship with Holly and Capote raises the question of all the characters’ sexuality throughout the story. Other characters remind me a little bit of aimless members of an earlier lost generation: Mag Wildwood, Rusty Trawler, and José Jbarra-Jaegar are examples of people who come into Holly’s life, become seemingly entrenched, and then disappear.

The themes of ownership, belonging and loss also run through the story. People connect and disconnect and Holly seems to not care, but suffers the most. She copes by developing superficial relationships and laying down shallow roots. Holly’s empty apartment and an unnamed cat are good examples of a life that is only semi-permanent. And when Doc Golightly shows up, she tries to explain away her childhood marriage and what their relationship means. “Doc really loves me, you know. And I love him. He may have looked old and tacky to you. But you don’t know the sweetness of him, the confidence he can give to birds and brats and fragile things like that. Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”

Everything changes when Holly learns about her brother, Fred, and we realize that Fred is the one person Holly has been clinging to the most. And when her business arrangement with Sally Tomato at Sing Sing falls apart, Capote leaves us wondering what Holly will do, or what will happen to her.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I’ll keep the ending out of my review. But I do think the different ending in the book is much better, and truer to Holly’s character.

On a minor note, I was glad to see that Mr. Yunioshi, Holly’s Japanese neighbor, is not the crazy and inappropriate character portrayed by Mickey Rooney in the movie, a definite cringe-worthy moment. Rooney once insisted that his portrayal received positive reviews, including Chinese and Japanese fans who told him he was hilarious. But he later admitted his shame and regret in his autobiography, Life Is Too Short. There are also moments in the book, however, that reveal the racial prejudices of the times, something that jumps out when you read fiction from an earlier time.

For the record, Truman Capote was not happy with the movie version. He wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly, and was dissatisfied with all aspects of the film. After the film was released, Capote commented, “Holly Golightly was real-a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City and Holly, and, as a result, was thin and pretty, whereas it should have been rich and ugly. It bore as much resemblance to my work as the Rockettes do to Ulanova.” (http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/156635|0/Trivia.html)

Check out these links for more information about the book and the movie.

http://news.moviefone.com/2011/10/05/25-things-breakfast-at-tiffanys-anniversary/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakfast_at_Tiffany%27s_%28novella%29

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's book cover
Breakfast at Tiffany’s

by
Truman Capote

Rating:

It’s impossible not to think about Audrey Hepburn when you meet the real Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote. It’s been awhile since I watched the movie, which stars Hepburn, George Peppard and Patricia Neal. George Axelrod wrote the screenplay and the movie was directed by Blake Edwards. It’s so easy to picture Hepburn in that apartment, to hear her voice and remember her sophisticated clothes. Oh to be able to carry yourself like that…

But after a few pages, despite an accurate dialogue, I realized that Capote’s Holly is a much different and younger character and that the movie glosses over some things, embellishes others, adds a plot line and changes the ending! I’ve always remembered loving the movie, but the book is much better.

This novella, a little over one hundred pages, is really a character sketch of Holly. The narrator is Holly’s neighbor, unnamed in the book, a writer who befriends her and a few years later, tries to guess what has become of her.

And she is a girl, nineteen years old, a run-away from a sad past, who makes her money entertaining men. And she makes more money on the side visiting a Mafia boss in prison and delivering coded messages that help run a drug cartel.

I remember the movie being rather light and romantic and thinking that Holly has it all together, despite her crazy life. Her source of income is barely explained in the movie, and although Holly jokes in the book about being paid for her “trips to the powder room,” there’s a deeper sadness in her and a roughness just below the surface that makes a much more complex character.

The narrator has a platonic relationship with Holly and Capote raises the question of all the characters’ sexuality throughout the story. Other characters remind me a little bit of aimless members of an earlier lost generation: Mag Wildwood, Rusty Trawler, and José Jbarra-Jaegar are examples of people who come into Holly’s life, become seemingly entrenched, and then disappear.

The themes of ownership, belonging and loss also run through the story. People connect and disconnect and Holly seems to not care, but suffers the most. She copes by developing superficial relationships and laying down shallow roots. Holly’s empty apartment and an unnamed cat are good examples of a life that is only semi-permanent. And when Doc Golightly shows up, she tries to explain away her childhood marriage and what their relationship means. “Doc really loves me, you know. And I love him. He may have looked old and tacky to you. But you don’t know the sweetness of him, the confidence he can give to birds and brats and fragile things like that. Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”

Everything changes when Holly learns about her brother, Fred, and we realize that Fred is the one person Holly has been clinging to the most. And when her business arrangement with Sally Tomato at Sing Sing falls apart, Capote leaves us wondering what Holly will do, or what will happen to her.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I’ll keep the ending out of my review. But I do think the different ending in the book is much better, and truer to Holly’s character.

On a minor note, I was glad to see that Mr. Yunioshi, Holly’s Japanese neighbor, is not the crazy and inappropriate character portrayed by Mickey Rooney in the movie, a definite cringe-worthy moment. Rooney once insisted that his portrayal received positive reviews, including Chinese and Japanese fans who told him he was hilarious. But he later admitted his shame and regret in his autobiography, Life Is Too Short. There are also moments in the book, however, that reveal the racial prejudices of the times, something that jumps out when you read fiction from an earlier time.

For the record, Truman Capote was not happy with the movie version. He wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly, and was dissatisfied with all aspects of the film. After the film was released, Capote commented, “Holly Golightly was real-a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City and Holly, and, as a result, was thin and pretty, whereas it should have been rich and ugly. It bore as much resemblance to my work as the Rockettes do to Ulanova.” Check out this article on tcm.com.

These links provide more information about the book and the movie:

moviefone.com article

Wikipedia

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow

Billy Bathgate
by
E. L. Doctorow

Rating:

If you like intelligent and well-written historical fiction and New York stories about organized crime during the 1930s, check out Billy Bathgate, by E. L. Doctorow. Published in 1989, Billy Bathgate won both the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The 1991 movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean, Bruce Willis, Steven Hill and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire).

Billy Bathgate is a fifteen-year-old boy from the Bronx who becomes a protégé of the notorious Dutch Schultz, a hot-head New York mobster who made his money during the 1930s running beer and controlling the numbers racket. Billy is a fictional character, but he moves with the very real Schultz and his advisers, including Schultz’s genius accountant, Otto “Abbadabba” Berman, hit man Lulu Rosenkrantz and lawyer Dixie Davis. With no father and a mother who is not altogether with it, Billy looks to Schultz and Berman to show him how to make it in the world. His initiation into the gang begins with a chilling murder at sea, during which one of Schultz’s associates, Bo Weinberg, has his feet set in a tub of cement.

But Billy has joined the gang at the end of Dutch Schultz’s reign over organized crime in his part of New York. Narrated through Billy’s voice, the story tells of Schultz’s wildly unpredictable and violent temper and of his upcoming tax evasion trial. Drew Preston is a young and beautiful society woman who is difficult to read. She becomes Schultz’s companion and a dangerous temptation for Billy.

Beating the tax charges might not be enough to keep Schultz out of trouble. Schultz’s end is near when his political connections fall through, and his plans to kill Thomas Dewey, a U.S. attorney and prosecutor, are unsupported.

Billy’s reflections are both street-smart and deep and this point of view presents a surprising narration. He is naïve and sweet and crude and eloquent at the same time. His reader appeal and respect is in his innocence and in his ability to take care of himself. And Doctorow has a way of making Schultz’s illegal and violent henchmen seem fatherly at times. He presents them as professionals who take extreme pride in what they do, from neatly rolling up the cuffs of the doomed Weinberg to shooting precisely, to performing elaborate acrobatics with numbers.

I enjoyed reading Billy Bathgate because the author does a great job showing the positives and obvious negatives of these complex characters and historical figures.  Billy also makes some terrific philosophical and spiritual observations about this life.

Here are a few of my favorites:

When Billy describes the sounds of an unexpected murder, he says, “…and when its echoes died away I heard the silence of the sudden subtraction from the universe of a life…” p. 196

As he reflects on the importance of money, Billy says, “It didn’t matter how the money stopped flowing, in or out, the result was equally disastrous, the whole system was in jeopardy, just as, if the earth stopped turning, according to what a teacher explained to us once in the planetarium, it would shake itself to pieces.” p. 280

And when he thinks about the men who died at the Palace Chophouse, he remarks, “What happened to the skills of a man when he died, that he knew how to play the piano, for instance, or in Irving’s case to tie knots, to roll up pant legs, to walk easily over a heaving sea?” p. 312.

I like Doctorow’s writing style. He uses long sentences, with lots of commas and they often take up an entire page. But they always return to the central point and I think they are easy to follow. The book has the inevitable and uncomfortable violent scenes, but a story like this could not be told without them, so they serve a necessary purpose.

This is a very entertaining and educational read and it describes a unique period of time in New York City. And it’s so well-written that it is just as great now as it was twenty-five years ago!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!