Breakfast at Tiffany’s was our choice this month at Pieces for Places Book Club, held at the wonderful furniture store in Barmouth where we get to try out comfortable armchairs with wine, cheese and a good chat about a book.
Many of us had the impression Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a romantic comedy, due no doubt to memories of the Blake Edward’s film version of the novella, and yearning for the Henry Mancini song Moon River and Audrey Hepburn’s very stylised depiction of Holly Golightly. None of us, it turned out, had read the actual book before. Marilyn Munro was Capote’s first choice for Holly, and would have made the film a different entity.
Although bitingly funny, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not a romantic comedy, more social comment, but it is delightful for its prose and humour.
Capote has called Holly an American geisha rather than a socialite. The difference? The word geisha conveys skilled artist or artisan in Japanese with connotations of entertainer perhaps as singer or musician requiring long training. Holly is more of a debutant, living only for parties and the hope of a rich husband, for more than one season. It is said that geisha inhabit a separate reality which they call ‘the flower and willow world’. Courtesans were the flower and geisha the willow because of their subtlety, strength, and grace.
It seems Holly Golightly does inhabit a separate reality, two perhaps. She escapes poverty in a Southern community where being a child bride is the norm for girls and reinvents herself in New York, living precariously by entertaining rich men.
Holly’s reality involves a level of detachment from it. Capote portrays an innocent abroad, she does not convince as a hard hearted schemer, except when she initially abandons her cat. Her realities catch up with her first when Doc Golightly her husband comes to find her and when her weekly visits to Sing Sing to carry messages for a notorious (fictional) criminal, who goes by the wonderful name Sally Tomato are exposed and she is threatened with a prison sentence.
Holly’s comeuppance? banishment from her native land, living on in the memories of those who knew her, immortalised in an African carving. For a girl who described her occupation as travelling this is as much wish fulfilment as breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The Golden Dream directed by Diego Quemada-Díez is a beautiful and deeply troubling film that satisfies on many levels. A good story well told and acted, an odyssey, a coming of age in a hostile world, it’s one of those films that lingers in the mind till you have to watch it again.
Four Guatemalan teenagers journey towards America, joining ‘the beast,’ the train loaded with illegal immigrants hoping to reach the US border and the golden dream like so many migrating birds. In Spanish the title is the golden cage which perhaps captures more of the engulfing compulsion to migrate.
A motif runs through the film, a beautiful black and white shot of silver flakes falling from the sky. It could be the Milky Way falling to earth, or charred paper, a symbol of hopes gone up in smoke. Eventually we learn what it is – no spoilers – and the film is all the more poignant.
We know the outcome for political or economic migrants: overindulged faces turn away from their plight, hearts turn to stone. Not even the law is on their side, and certainly not the establishment.
For once I’ve already devoured the book before it comes out in film.
Not my usual choice, it was a great holiday read and almost brought about a conversion. The hostile claustrophobic atmosphere of the fifties Soviet State was well covered and all too plausible. That it was about child abuse and murder that the Soviet state refused even to acknowledge is an irony, if nothing else, with the DPP’s recent catastrophic blow to victims (not in the public interest to be seen to act fairly.)
It seems iniquitous not to shout out at the injustice done by our liberal state to the victims of abuse.
A shame then that they say the film has dulled a taught psychological thriller and immersed everything in a ‘cloudy brown soup’
The film of the play is set on the bleak coastal hillside on the West coast of Ireland.
The way of life depicted has all but disappeared, but one wonders if the sentiment remains, running through to the bone like turf down to barren rock: stark: bigoted, corrupt, inward looking, fixated on injustice, death and starvation. For the blood and bone of millions, starved and evicted, sank back into the land, or was shipped off to die far away from home.
And yet the father’s grief for a son who has committed suicide, the mother’s for the son denied a christian burial by the church as cruel and unforgiving as the land, the desperate need for survival and the bitter memory of the Great Hunger and inhumane treatment by foreign landlords, is all too poignant. The American looking for his roots, unable to marry the static old world with the thrusting new, spills his blood or has it spilt for him into the earth too.
My latest novel, (currently looking for a publishing home) is set on the West Coast from whence my ancestors emigrated, touches on more recent Irish history. It fails to capture the gut wrench emotion of The Field but does encapsulate the need for change, forgiveness and the all too English incomprehension of a people whom for hundreds of years they have tried and failed to subjugate.