Last week I walked into my neighborhood coffee shop, ordered a cup of tea, and proceeded to spend the next several hours in complete and utter contentment.
There was no work, no worries, just me and my whims. With a pink lipstick stain left on the rim of my white mug and the afternoon to myself, I felt more than adequately prepared to crack open the pages of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’d been wanting to read the original novella for years but never quite made the time for it.
But that day, after life had knocked me down just a little too hard, I stood back up and took time out for myself, to nurture myself, to feed myself some soul food. I made the time for literature—real, actual literature. This act of rebellion makes me certain now more than ever that we should always make time for the classics.
If I’m going to be completely honest, I know the movie so well that I could probably repeat most of it line for line. Admittedly, I first allowed it into my life because it was a vehicle for the breathtaking Audrey Hepburn. Her name alone is enough endorsement for just about anything, after all. But once you look beyond her stunning beauty and endearing portrayal of the blithe and complicated Holly Golightly, you begin to see something more.
It is a survival story.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a story about two imperfect people who are simply doing their best to survive, day in and day out, both searching for some kind of meaning in their lives. And although it obviously received the Hollywood cloak of glamor and censorship, the movie still portrays something that feels true enough to be a reality we wish we could visit.
My time immersed in the world created by Truman Capote that afternoon was a whirlwind that ended far too soon—it was the literary equivalent of Netflix binging an entire series when you know you have more important things to do, but just can’t help yourself. It feels so right at the time but when those final credits roll, we feel ever so slightly lost in the sensation that on some level we no longer know what to do with our life.
I fell in love with Holly Golightly all over again in the book, only this time, my heartstrings were being pulled by the real, vulnerable, fleshed out character that wasn’t fully allowed to be seen on screen in 1961.
In those pages I met the real Holly.
My tea grew cold as my fingers rhythmically turned the pages. I lost time that afternoon, but I gained so much more. Truly, we should make more time in our lives to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and reach for a book filled with words that have stood up to criticism and history and still remain standing.
There is a reason we call them classics.
On those pages, I met a friend that trusted me with her deepest secrets for the first time because I took the time to get to know her in the pages of her origin story instead of a movie screen. I met her without judgment, letting her speak to me while I played the role of listener; and that is perhaps one of the biggest lessons Holly Golightly can leave us with—one of compassion and of non-judgment.
As a character she embodies the ultimate carefree and unattached persona; she is selfishly motivated, markedly detached, yet remains oddly endearing. She uses people to achieve her end goals, whether that is in the form of the bartender who takes her phone calls or the upstairs neighbor who buzzes her in when she’s lost her key. The strange thing is, though, that they happily allow her to do so. And in many ways, she serves as an anchor point for the people around her who come to depend on her flighty, ungrounded, unusual way of participating in the world.
In a way, she is unattached to the outcome of her life as long as she is enjoying it. Holly lives in the moment and is unapologetically herself––always.
I have to respect that.
Although the book was written several decades ago, I was impressed with the sense that so much of what she wrestled with and portrayed herself to be in the original story are still relevant to us today. I would argue that Capote’s Holly was ahead of her time—perhaps this is why the story has stood the test of time. Were she introduced today, I’m sure she would blend right in with the crowd, —somehow, that idea makes me smile.
In no particular order, here’s a list of 12 quotes from the world of Holly Golightly in the original novella that are startlingly applicable to those of us still trying to figure out this whole thing called life in 2016:
12. “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”
11. “Home is where you feel at home. I’m still looking.”
10. “Clocks are slow on Sundays.”
9. “Everybody has to feel superior to somebody.”
8. “We don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I.”
7. “I thought of the future and spoke of the past.”
6. “Love should be allowed. I’m all for it. Now that I’ve got a pretty good idea what it is.”
5. “A disquieting loneliness came into my life, but it induced no hunger for friends of longer acquaintance: they seemed now like a salt-free, sugarless diet.”
4. “He wants awfully to be inside staring out: anybody with their nose pressed against a glass is liable to look stupid.”
3. “Like many people with a bold fondness for volunteering intimate information, anything that suggested a direct question, a pinning-down, put her on guard.”
2. “You can love somebody without it being like that. You keep them a stranger, a stranger who’s a friend.”
1. “I don’t mean I’d mind being rich and famous. That’s very much on my schedule, and someday I’ll try to get around to it; but if it happens, I’d like to have my ego tagging along. I want to still be me when I wake up one fine morning and have breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Author: Molly Murphy
Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: Wikimedia / Public Domain