by Truman Capote
Reviewed by Gerti
I read Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” many years ago, and knew him to be a very talented writer. Like that iconic book, the short novel “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” also went Hollywood, starring gorgeous waif Audrey Hepburn, whom everyone remembers from “My Fair Lady,” and a very handsome George Peppard, whom no one remembers. “Tiffany’s” is found in a very tiny volume, perhaps 5” by 7”, 161 pages in all, and that also includes 3 short stories, so it’s no surprise the filmmakers had to add (and change) a lot to make a movie. Of course, the book is better than the movie, but you should experience both for contrast.
His writing is clever, but tight, and Capote excels when writing descriptions, like that of heroine Holly Golightly and her big city lifestyle. The plot and motivations are weaker and decidedly unromantic, and perhaps that’s why filmmaker Blake Edwards decided to change things, like the ending, for his movie audience. He also significantly changed the male narrator, whom Holly calls “Fred”, into a gigolo, which I don’t think was what Capote intended for his narrator at all. Edwards cuts some of the characters from Capote’s novel for simplicity’s sake, but then adds others to go along with his re-tooling of Capote’s tale.
Taken in its entirety, the Capote book, complete with the 3 short stories which follow “Tiffany’s”, has Truman writing about quirky characters, and the relationships they have with others. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Capote seems concerned with the essence of these people, and the phony persona’s they present to the world. For example, charming urbanite Holly Golightly is actually Lulamae Barnes, a run-away bride from Tulip, Texas, who lives in New York by her wits and tricks. In the short story “House of Flowers,” which follows the novel, the protagonist is a female prostitute, a very young and popular one in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who falls in love, and then has to deal with the cruelty of her husband and his grandmother when she leaves the business behind to marry him. She cannot really escape the past, as her prostitute friends pay her a visit in her new home. Similarly in “Tiffany’s,” Lulamae’s husband, aging veterinarian Dr. Golightly, comes to NYC to convince her to come home to her children. Neither woman goes back, and perhaps here Capote is trying to say that you can never go back to what you were in this life, that the only way is to continue going forward, even if it’s in another direction, and love plays no part in how the story ends.
That’s why the movie’s ending to me is so wrong, for it has Holly staying in New York, taking back her cat and giving in to her love for “Fred.” This doesn’t happen in the book, and I think it doesn’t exactly because of the point Capote was trying to make about one’s past. The other two stories, “A Diamond Guitar” and “A Christmas Memory”, both resonate to the same note – things happen in life that separate us irrevocably from our past, and the people who dwell there, and while we can think fondly about it, and them, we really can’t return.