My list of sleeper prospects for all 30 teams went up this morning for Insiders.
Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella-length character study of the iconic Holly Golightly, the chameleonic protagonist whose ability to reinvent herself and manipulate people to her own benefit charms the milquetoast narrator.
Holly is a very young, independent-minded woman who takes a flat in a Manhattan brownstone where the unnamed narrator, dubbed “Fred” by Holly, also lives. She fascinates him through her force of will, her expectation that people will jump to meet her every whim (they often do), and through how men just fall hopelessly for her like dominoes in a line. (Fred’s affection for Holly always seems to be of the arm’s-length variety, and I thought the character, like Capote, was gay.) Her anchorless life hits a snag when a piece of her old life shows up out of the blue to try to drag her out of her high-society ways to a backwoods existence she never wanted in the first place.
Capote was a prose master, with Norman Mailer issuing the oft-repeated statement that he “would not have changed two words in” this story, but the line that caught my eye was because it reminded me of a television program:
…I noticed a taxi stop across the street to let out a girl who ran up the steps of the Forty-second Street Public Library. She was through the doors before I recognized her, which was pardonable, for Holly and libraries were not an easy association to make. I let curiosity guide me between the lions…
I’ve tried to find out of the makers of the children’s show Between the Lions took their name from the book, but have had no success. Naming a show about literacy after a phrase from an American literary giant seems fitting, though.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is usually sold along with three Capote short stories: “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory.” The first two are ordinary, the first about a prostitute in Haiti who finds an escape to what might be a better life, the latter about two unlikely friends at a southern prison camp (one of whom is named Tico Feo, which means “ugly Costa Rican.”) The third story is a marvel, a peer to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s canon of short stories, a sweet but wholly unsentimental tale about the friendship between a young boy and an cousin in her 60s, and how the two would make and sell fruitcakes every Christmas season. We often praise players who recognize their skill sets and their limitations by saying that they “don’t try to do too much.” In “A Christmas Story,” Capote didn’t try to do too much. He lets the story do it for him.
Hilary Mantel’s Fludd is a strange piece of fiction, a short novel about a curate assigned to a small, backwards English town where Catholicism is practiced by means of superstition rather than faith and the priest has lost his own belief and probably his marbles as well. The curate, however, isn’t what he at first seems to be, and as the novel goes along one of the nuns emerges as the real central character despite being little more than a stock extra for the first half of the book. That character, Philomena, turns out to be the only character with any depth of anyone who populates these pages – even Fludd, the possibly-supernatural being named after a long-dead alchemist and mystic, is barely revealed, with nothing on his motives or actual thoughts – and her decision between life in the convent (which was chosen for her by her deranged mother) and the fearful world outside of it is the only major event in the entire book. There’s an anti-Catholic undertone to the book, which may bother some readers, and a subplot around idolatry and statues that went right over my head.
Next up: Hugh Laurie – yes, that one, House, Wooster, Jools, and so on – wrote a comic novel in 1996 called The Gun Seller. I have incredibly high expectations for this one.