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2015 Stories 283 - 286

Four by Truman Capote:

283. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S. I was surprised to learn (as I was with Cornell Woolrich's story "Rear Window") this is not a full-length novel but actually a very tightly-written, compelling and character-driven novella. They say good things come in small packages, and that is absolutely true of this gem of a story. A chance encounter with a mutual friend inspires Capote's unnamed narrator to relate the story of his brief, bright friendship with Holly Golightly. In Capote's hands, Holly shines: the reader is as drawn in to her schemes and whims as the narrator is. But because we're at a remove, and are more cynical perhaps, we can see the cracks in Holly's facade long before the narrator can bring himself to admit them. Part of the joy of reading the story, really, is wondering how long it will take the narrator to see Holly is not as perfect as he feels she is. It all comes together neatly in the end, with no small amount of drama but also no dark bad end.


284. HOUSE OF FLOWERS relates the story of a whore all the men love, who leaves her "comfortable" (compared to many) position in the brothel in the city to marry a man from the country. Capote touches on a lot of familiar territory in this one: the urge to better oneself; the need to flee your past combined with the inexorable draw back to it; the way one's friends, even with your best interests at heart, may draw you away from what they perceive to be the wrong path for you. I'm not sure that Capote's attempt at island patois really works, but I enjoyed the main character and felt for her.

285. A DIAMOND GUITAR is a fine piece of prison fiction: the main character is an older prisoner who falls under the charms of a younger man who has brought his diamond guitar with him to the jail. Manipulation through emotional blackmail and the possibility of unrequited love never really crystallize beyond the tropes that they are. The story is fast and intimate and not bad, but it lacks the sweep of "Tiffany's" and the real heart of "Christmas Memory," and thus was the weakest in the collection to me.

286. A CHRISTMAS MEMORY is, with the title story of the volume, probably Capote's most well-known short piece. It's a cutting tale of childhood idol worship for an older relative, at turns warm and bitter. The narrator (apparently a young Capote) and his elder fend off, as much as they can, the derision of the mostly-unseen rest of their family. The point of the story at which childhood belief and wonder give way to harsher realities is poignant and emotional.

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