Why Holly Golightly Now?

Why Holly Golightly Now?

Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly has served as a style icon for decades, but the subtle complexities of Truman Capote’s heroine are less discussed. Today’s Times review of Sam Wasson's new book, 5th Avenue, 5A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman recalls attention to the fact that Capote’s heroine was more than a well-cut black dress and a long cigarette holder. She was, in her way, a revolutionary. She was openly sexual at a time when this was rare. Unlike the attendant iconography—the glasses, the hair, the pearl choker—she was neither a cliché nor an “aspirational” ideal.


The romance of Breakfast at Tiffany’s—like that of the Mad Men days wet with drinks, cigarettes and tailored trousers—is what most people remember when they think of the film. But the tragic story underneath Holly’s rise is emblematic of something different: people who arrive in New York without knowing who they are, people who want things they will never have. Her story is a story of a failure to rise past a certain place, and of a still-certain commercialism that underlies too many transactions otherwise known as Love. One has the sense that Holly was for sale.

Golightly is not even her real name, and in that way “Holly” represents much of what we still love and hate about this city—or, perhaps, about America: its role is not to tell us who we are. This is something each one of us must divine for ourselves, via the creation of habits and rituals. In Manhattan, this might mean eating croissants on Fifth Avenue, by Tiffany’s. Or dressing for dinner. Or forming meaningless flirtations with neighbors.

Among other things, Fifth Avenue, 5A.M. tells the story of how Marilyn Monroe was offered the Golightly role. She declined; her acting teacher felt it was too crass. Hepburn brought a coy innocence to a girl/woman who was anything but: she was phony. Her looks and her charms made those things seem less relevant, but they would only get her so far. Norman Mailer, after reading the novella, said Capote was “the most perfect writer of my generation.”

Is Holly worth considering now, against a backdrop of foreign wars and oil spills?

The book, published in 1958 gets less presence on current curriculums but it is a crucial story of an American time and place. The sixties had not yet begun, but the fifties were over forever. Holly’s elegant avarice illustrates an aspect of this shift: the sadness of letting go of a (perhaps never present in the first place) great romance.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Keep reading Show less

Coffee and green tea may lower death risk for some adults

Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.


Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
  • This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
  • The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Keep reading Show less

Why San Francisco felt like the set of a sci-fi flick

But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.

Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP / Getty Images
Surprising Science

On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.

Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

America of the 1930s saw thousands of people become Nazi

Nazi supporters held huge rallies and summer camps for kids throughout the United States in the 1930s.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast