Monday 7 February 2011

It sneaks up on you

I can't say I've ever felt any urge to read anything by Truman Capote; I didn't have an aversion to him, it's just that I'd never heard anything that made me want his stuff on my TBR pile. Also, I haven't seen the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, and know absolutely nothing about it except that Audrey Hepbourn was in it and maybe had big hair for it. It may just be that I liked this Vintage edition of the book, and that seemed like a good enough reason to pick it up. Silly? Or pure genius? No one will ever know for sure but I think I know the answer. Not telling.

To my surprise, Breakfast at Tiffany's isn't only Breakfast at Tiffany's; it's Breakfast at Tiffany's plus three short stories, including "House of Flowers", "A Diamond Guitar", and "A Christmas Memory". And I have to say - I liked the stories much better than Breakfast at Tiffany's. (I wonder how many times I can repeat the novella's title before it loses all meaning and just reads like a jumble of random and unrelated letters?)

"A Christmas Memory" was especially good, fully embracing as it does what I think is Capote's best sub-genre, based on the 178 comprising this volume: Southern Gothic. "A Diamond Guitar" also fits the bill and Breakfast at Tiffany's has a few unexpected scenes of the SG which greatly improved my felings about it, but "A Christmas Memory" is the best. It's like a smoother, toned down, more optimistic Faulkner story - which makes the sad ending so much harder to bear. Yes, 15 minutes ago, I was weeping fit to die.

I wept fit to die at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany's as well, which really surprised me because while I have concluded that Capote was generally a very good writer indeed, his most famous book had some embarrassingly bad lines. The example that has most stuck with me: while riding horseback with Miss Holiday Golightly through a park in NYC, the narrator of BaT's describes the wind "spanking" their faces. I laughed out loud, in horror; then I cringed; then I felt a deep wellspring of pity building within me; then I wished anyone, anyone at all, had been around, so I could read it aloud to them and laugh with them. I thought, "The lengths some people will go to create an anti-cliche (i.e., a phrase you can be sure no one will ever steal from you)!" Ah well. We're none of us perfect, except David Mitchell and maybe also William Faulkner.

Bottom line: I like Truman Capote. At first, I wasn't so into his writing but it grew on me, in spite of some shaky bits in BaT's. In fact, it snuck up on me, and left me discovering how deeply involved I was in each tale only at the end when I found that I'd been sitting much closer to the waterworks than I'd realized.

I also owe you a review of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, which I'm hoping to do on Wednesday; tomorrow, I definitely can't do it as I'll be banished from my apartment as the water will be turned off all day - AGAIN - for repairs of some sort. Sigh.

(Book 7 for the Awesome Author Challenge!)


Anonymous said...

I have only read In Cold Blood, but I enjoyed that a great deal.

Heidenkind said...

Damn that spanking wind. lol

I've also read In Cold Blood, a surprisingly good book. Also, Capote and Harper Lee were childhood friends, and I always thought he must have been the model for Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Y S Lee said...

I've never read Capote either, but I have seen the film version of BaT. It's only memorable because at some point, you'll be staring at the male lead and realize, "Sweet JESUS, that's Hannibal from the A-Team! He's young! He's pretending to be a romantic hero! Ha! Hannibal!" The rest of the movie is forgettable.

andrew said...

Ditto on "In Cold Blood"--a great read--but also much creepier after you've seen the movie "Capote" and imagine the author as someone basically crushing on one of the killers.

However, I'm discouraged that no one has any love for the fantastic Audrey Hepburn! Although, I find BaT virtually unwatchable thanks to one of the most virulently racist depictions of an Asian ever committed to film--and I'm including Charlie Chan here.

Bookphilia said...

bookishhobbit: Well, you're not the only fan of the book. :) I'm sure I'll get to it one of these days.

heidenkind: I read on the Wikipedia that they were friends and that Capote inspired one of Lee's characters in TKAM. I've read the latter but it's been 20+ years so I don't remember it at all. :)

Ying: Hannibal as a romantic lead? That's just crazy-talk.

Andrew: Which is weird, because that character is barely present in the book, referred to only by others and never seen. And he's not made to seem ridiculous in those brief mentions.

Trapunto said...

I'm not sure I would like a book to sneak up on me and make me cry. Sounds like a mean cousin.