Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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Truman Capote was born on this day in 1924.

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.

 

 

 

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The Covenant of Living Together

The covenant of living together is a concept discussed by Nadine Gordimer in her book The House Gun. It implies the give and take of any relationship.  Gordimer includes the government in her covenant and asks if the state should share responsibility for what happens to its citizens. The state in question is post-apartheid South Africa. Decades of violence and the casual keeping and use of guns have a role in the story. As does the decision to ban capital punishment. It is a complicated tale of love and betrayal, but she asks if the state too hasn’t betrayed its own citizens.

Perhaps we should be asking questions of our government. Where does the responsibility lie after the fire in London? With the dismantling or destruction of the NHS? With the extrication from Europe with complete disregard for the impact on anyone? Child poverty?

The list is endless.

 

Greed

IMG_3827I coveted a chair, an iconic Eames chair, with leather cushion and steamed wood made to look like rosewood and wings. A chair that would ‘fit like an old baseball glove.’ I liked the sound of that but could not fully imagine it, never having worn one. A retired person’s chair that epitomised comfort, grace and ease, the kind that would include lots of reading.
I deliberated, waited, hankered and finally succumbed, choosing a purveyor of fine furniture with a solid and dependable name. On line reviews of their reliability were staunch, besides they advertised in the Observer.
I parted with the money from my dwindling resource, a major purchase for one now un waged and sadly without a pension either (see WASPI for that sorry story). Disappointed but only mildly concerned to discover a wait of twelve weeks for delivery. Oh I counted down the weeks, like an expectant grandmother awaiting a first grandchild. I lasted ten weeks before I checked up on them.

Serves me right I suppose for entertaining ideas way above and beyond. Shortly after my purchase, well after the company would have known my precious £££s would serve only to fleece me and line their pockets, THEY WENT BUST. Never mind baseball gloves and Mom’s good old apple pie. It seems there is nothing to be done since they are in receivership and I parted willingly with my money.

But wait! Just as I prepare to compose a stinging sentence to do with the little man and the unfair system, my bank has refunded me in full. The idea of chair as investment had begun to pall anyway.

Any Human Heart

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Often, in the view from my window, sea and sky merge.  Obviously  different elements and entities and yet there on the horizon is an intimation that one disappears into the other. Sometimes they merely reflect each other like a blend of fact and fiction.

I have been reading Any Human Heart. Had I bought the book rather than a download  I might have thought twice. It’s quite a tome and I usually go for short.  But I’m having a William Boyd fest at the moment and the note stating five hours left to read, that would normally send a frisson,  ‘have I five hours left to give?’ I  ignore happily. It’s a really enjoyable read. Logan, the (anti?) hero, witnesses and participates in the major events of the twentieth century in a grand sweep, meeting novelists, artists, even  the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I like the improbability of the names and  the pretence. A blur of real and unreal that can constitute a good novel.

Reflecting on the improbability of life and fiction, William Boyd and me both, a few choice quotes worth pondering.

What do you believe in?

‘(A) credo of two hates and three loves: hatred of injustice, hatred of privilege, love of life, love of humanity, love of beauty.

The meaning of life?

‘That’s all your life amounts to in the end: the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience. Everything is explained by that simple formula.’

Advice for budding writers perhaps?:

‘In good prose precision must always triumph over decoration…Wilful elaboration is a sign that the stylist has entered a decadent phase….sometimes a plain dish of lentils is all that the palate craves even if one insists that the lentils come from Puy.’

 

 

 

Sweet Caress

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The life and loves of photographer, Amory Clay, spanning decades of the last century effortlessly recording momentous events such as the rise of fascism, the Second World War, the war in Vietnam and finally California in the late sixties.

It could be age but whenever I close the final page of a book these days I’m blowed if I can remember what and who it was about. Even the cover, as in this case, brought dim recollection. A flick through a few pages and the prose was indeed a sweet caress. The story came flooding back.

 

Interlude in blogs

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Monday’s the day blog spots drift in like falling leaves clogging time. When it’s poetry though, it’s pleasant to kick through the traces.

Thanks to Lindsaystanberryflynn.co.uk for this Elizabeth Jennings Song at the Beginning of Autumn.

Now watch this autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like Summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.

Proust who collected time within
A child’s cake would understand
The ambiguity of this –
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that Autumn gropes for us.

But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names –
Autumn and Summer, Winter, Spring –
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.

But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marbles, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air, kickin
When I said Autumn, Autumn broke.