I knew a Holly Golightly once. We met in an art class in high school, and went on to be friends in college, before I fell in love with someone else. We would spend time together after class: she taught me that putting my loofah in with the laundry extended its life and kept it cleaner. I accompanied her on a modeling gig, where the artist she posed for belittled me for pronouncing Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’s name without a proper French accent. She ended up allowing a vagrant named Cowboy Bill (if memory serves) to move into her apartment. We would go hiking in the mountains, wading into streams that never seemed to be touched by the warmth of the sun.
She was a unique and mysterious person, never predictable and always on the move; like a shark, I think being still too long would be her end. I haven’t seen her in almost a decade, but she lives three thousand miles away, now. Out of my life, but not forgotten.
At the time, I wouldn’t have described her as a “Holly Golightly”, and even after watching the movie some years later the thought wouldn’t have struck me. She didn’t have Audrey Hepburn’s grace or carefully concealed rectitude. But after reading the book, the similarities jumped from the page.
Which leaves me somewhat perplexed. Holly Golightly is an icon. She is Capote’s most indelible character, and recognizable to many who have never seen the film or read the book. And even though I found a tangible connection to what’s in these pages, I don’t really know why.
I found this book to be enjoyable, if fairly light and streamlined. But how it shook the literary world, went on to inspire a fashion revolution, and has been fought over by the supposed inspiration for the character, is a bit of a mystery. There simply inst much to the novella.
The narrator (first called “Fred”, then “Buster”) lives in a brownstone apartment in Manhattan, where Holly Golightly also lives. Over the course of a year, Fred orbits Holly after first becoming fascinated with her and then, eventually, loving her. But this isn’t a romance, and the two are never involved. In fact, Fred is apparently gay (though, I completely missed the allusions to this fact).
And that’s pretty much it. Fred is an asteroid caught in her gravity well. He orbits her for a year before natural forces cast them apart. And like that errant rock, his subsequent trajectory is forever changed.
Holly, meanwhile, is still Holly. It’s not that she doesn’t care for Fred, but she is the thing around which others revolve. The impact on her is minimal. She remains untamed. Yet, at her core, she will always be that poor Texas girl with an affected accent, scared of being alone and pretending to be whatever is wanted of her to whomever she’s with.
Ultimately, I thought this was a good book, and I felt that the character of Holly Golightly was well-described. Fred was not – but I’m fairly certain that was entirely the point. He exists only to be a witness to her, and a reliable counterpoint to her eccentricity.
Capote is widely hailed, I think, as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, and while I can undoubtedly recognize his skill with the language, I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. I mean, look, there’s a reason I got my degree in archaeology instead of English. I like to read, but I don’t pretend to be the most erudite or knowledgeable person out there. You hit me over the head with beautiful writing (like, say, Herman Melville), and I can’t help but notice it. More nuanced talent, though? I don’t know. It’s not my thing. So I guess Capote goes in the same boat as Hemingway, for me.
Anyway….I just don’t really see much to get excited about, here. Is she so fascinating that the absence of plot is worth overlooking? I don’t know. I don’t personally think so. But maybe that’s because I’ve spent my entire life in a post-Breakfast at Tiffany’s world. If this was 1958, I might have a different opinion.
But this is 2017, and I’m left with fond memories of a girl I once knew, and an okay book that a lot of people talk about.
Reviewed twice before, most recently by Caitlin_D. Both reviewers gave the book 4 stars.