Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Because no matter where you run, you just keep running into yourself

When I was a junior at Elizabethtown, I wrote a paper. Okay, I wrote many papers (way too many to count), but I was really excited about this one, which was for a cultural history class taught by Kevin Scott. I had to pick an item of popular culture from any era and explain how that item represented the time in which it was made. I spent days Googling and searching through the vast amount of primary documents that I had already accrued in the hopes of using them in my classroom one day, but no luck. As much as I was enjoying the class, and as much as I love history, nothing was really speaking to me. I was frustrated, sitting on my bed in my dorm room, when I glanced over at my desk, where I had some DVDs stacked on the corner. And then it hit me. Breakfast at Tiffany's! I had always loved the movie, and recently finished reading Truman Capote's original novel. Once I had the idea, I was on a roll.

Holly Golightly speaks to every woman. She's classy and beautiful and most of all, she is independent. If it was one thing I knew, it was that the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s marked a shift in the paradigm for women. This movie represented that shift. Between Holly's origins as a wife in Tulip, Texas to her fight for independence, the movie chronicles the struggle women were having at the time. Honestly, it's the same struggle that women are still facing today: career or family? And if we want both, when do we have time for anything else?

Capote's novel was miles different from the movie when it was finished, but gay, nameless narrator or George Peppard as a love interest, the theme remains the same: women's needs were changing. So I wrote my paper with passion and a love for my subject. To this day, that era remains my favorite one to teach about because the struggles going on in a woman's mind, or between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., or in the post-war man's psyche are fascinating.

Three years later, my little sister handed me a book that she had just bought for me at the New York City Public Library on 5th Avenue (incidentally, we were on our way to have breakfast at Tiffany's). It was 5th Avenue, 5 a.m. by Sam Wasson. I was excited, as I am for anything regarding Breakfast at Tiffany's, so I began to read it as soon as I could.

Imagine my frustration when I realized that this book, published more than two years after I had written that paper, was about pretty much the same thing! Granted, the research that it must have taken to turn the idea that apparently Wasson and I shared into this New York Times Bestseller must have been intense, and there's no way that the college version of me could have written a book.

Despite my disappointment that it was Wasson, not me, who was the bestselling author, I was enthralled. Fifth Avenue, 5 a,m, is entertainingly written and concise, and arranged in a way that the chronology is not confusing. It is a book about Audrey Hepburn, and her desire to be part of two worlds: Hollywood and the home. It is a book about women in the 1950s and 60s, and how they shared Audrey's same desire. Mostly, it's about how Tiffany's changed what was considered "acceptable" at the time and made it seem okay for a call girl to fall in love with a kept man. In fact, it managed to make the whole thing classy, with Givenchy's landmark dress as the cherry on top.

I wholeheartedly recommend this to fans of Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, or history in general. I am usually not one to enjoy non-fiction, but this book was amazing. And besides, if I can't take the credit for the idea, at least Sam Wasson did a lovely job with it! So what are you waiting for? Go pick it up!

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