Tag Archives: Literary Archetypes

Literary Archetypes: Holly Golightly Would Win the Hunger Games

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*Warning: Lots of 60 year old spoilers. 

I have family and friends in the Midwest that I haven’t seen in two years, and I have teachers on the East Coast that I haven’t studied with for about that long either, but it’s the new Breakfast at Tiffany’s play on Broadway that has me pricing Greyhound tickets—especially since it’s supposed to be, like a zillion times more true to Truman Capote’s original novella than the Audrey Hepburn movie was (I love Audrey, and I do really like that movie, it’s just way different from the book is all).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is basically the same exact story as Sally Bowles. Like, right down to some of the dialogue even (which isn’t too surprising since Capote used to hang with Christopher Isherwood), but I actually like Tiffany’s better—mainly because the characters are more interesting, and  it’s just SO FUCKING WELL WRITTEN. If I had to pick a favorite writer, based solely on his/her talent for writing, I’d pick Truman Capote. I mean, when he describes a chair—a god. damn. chair.—I’m like, GIVE THIS MAN ALL OF THE PULITZERS FOREVER!!!!! And Breakfast at Tiffany’s (henceforth referred to as B @ T’s) is my favorite story of his (which probably makes me the worst Capote fangirl ever, since that’s basically the one Capote story that everybody’s read), but it’s my favorite because it’s this rare combination of great story telling and great writing. Like, try to imagine The Hunger Games without the awkward sentences, and constant summarizing of key plot points. Or a Jane Austen novel that’s not boring. It’s like that.

The thing is though, even though B @ T‘s is really similar to Sally Bowles (manic pixie dream girl’s big city adventures, as told by introverted BFF), Holly is not Sally. Where I want to give Sally a hug, and drink raw eggs with her in solidarity, I’m pretty sure that Holly Golightly would destroy me. Holly is the type of person that would steal your boyfriend, and your favorite shoes, and then show up at the place where you work, with your boyfriend, and wearing your shoes. Really, she’s not very nice. Like Sally Bowles, Holly takes advantage of people a lot, but with Sally it comes more from a place of not recognizing her own privilege, and thinking, “duh, of course these guys will do whatever I say; why the hell wouldn’t they? But Holly has a totally different backstory, and she doesn’t wear the same privilege goggles as Sally. Holly is way more calculating—which is actually pretty badass. She does what she does because she is a mother. fucking. SURVIVOR.  Holly Golightly would win the Hunger Games.

Even though I would be totally afraid of Holly in real life, I also kind of want to be her. Like, in the same way I want to be a Disney villain sometimes (shout out to Maleficent—I love your cool hat with the horns, and your sweet-ass cape with the purple lining!) Holly has a lot of qualities that I admire, and besides the fact that she’s mean, and she uses people a lot, I really have learned a lot from her. The the Guru Tattva, as illustrated in the story of Dattatreyas’ 24 gurus in the Indian scripture, the Bhagwatam Purana (yes, I went there. YOGA!!!!), says that anyone, and anything can be your teacher if you let it, so why not Holly?

SO. In that vein, here are ten important life lessons that I’ve learned from Holly Golightly:

You don’t really ever have to do laundry.
Holly sucks at doing laundry. I get it, because I suck at doing laundry too.
I tend to approach the issue by either:
a. sucking it up and doing the laundry
or
b. buying new clothes in the name of laundry avoidance

Holly has other ideas, including:
a. asking your best frenemy to move in, and hope she sends your laundry out for you
b. remembering that clothing is overrated. Just wear a towel to the party, and call it good

Holly’s solutions are both money-saving and do not involve the doing of actual laundry. Clearly superior to mine.

Hard times call for fabulous lipstick
When Holly is the hospital, recovering from a miscarriage that nearly kills her (and also, she’s probably going to jail), and about to read the world’s shittiest breakup note from Jose Ybarra-Jaeger—presumed future president of Brazil (with the world’s coolest name), she asks for her purse first, so she can put on some lipstick.

A girl just doesn’t read this sort of thing without her lipstick.

DAMN RIGHT SHE DOESN’T. A good lipstick, or quality gloss is essential, always, but especially when things suck .I like Smashbox’s “It Girl.” I think Holly would approve.

Sunglasses. Always.
Capote’s Holly Golightly was not outfitted by Givenchy (and unfortunately, neither am I) , but she was “never without dark glasses,” and wore simple clothes in colors that worked for her (in Holly’s case, blues and greys). Seriously, sun glasses are the shit, and while I live in Portland, where it’s cloudy most of the time, you never know when the sun will pop out and totally take you by surprise! So really, sunglasses are always appropriate. Also, you can totally get super-cute Holly-like shades at H&M for like, ten bucks (cheaper in the off seasons!) Also, if you always wear sunglasses, you don’t have to bother with eye makeup either! And if you’re like me and you have tiny eyes, but are not Renée Zellweger (the only person allowed to have tiny eyes, according to the beauty blogs), NO ONE HAS TO KNOW. EVER.
SUNGLASSES.

The art of a good swear
Holly has a lot of good ones—including, the simple, yet hilarious expletive, “oh, balls!” But nothing—nothing will ever beat “gee, golly goddamn!” Especially in context:

“But oh gee, golly goddamn,” she said, jamming a fist into her mouth like a bawling baby, “I did love him. The rat.

DAMN YOU JOSE YBERRA-JAEGGER. GEE, GOLLY GODDAMN YOU.

If you’re arrested in a narcotics scandal, talk about God, and why marijuana is superior to brandy. But then save face and say that you like brandy better.
Do I really need to explain this one?

If you want people to think you’re smart and sophisticated, say things in French! (Also, it doesn’t have to be good, or accurate French. Americans won’t know the difference)
Holly just kind of haphazardly says things in French sometimes. Like, for no reason, other than to be awesome. She’s had French lessons, and she PUTS THEM TO USE. I’ve had four years of French. Not semesters, but YEARS (two in high school, and two in college), and I’m still too scared to order an  “au chocolat,” because I’m worried that I won’t pronounce “chocolat” correctly. This, was an actual thing that happened recently:
Me: “Listen. I really want to order a cafe au lait with chocolate sauce in it. I know what it’s called, but I’m afraid that I’ll either sound really American or really affected if I try to say it…so, can I just have one…of those…twelve ounces…with rice milk, please?
Barista: “You mean an aww chaw-klit?” [That’s how she pronounced it. “aww chaw-klit.”]

See, Holly would’ve owned that shit.

Try the Holly Golightly Diet
Melba toast, cottage cheese, and/or a fuck-ton of liquor for every meal.
Actually, don’t do this. You’d probably die. Just read Skinny Bitch instead, or something.

Spay or neuter your pet (even if your pet is an independent, like you)
Holly is a dick to her cat. Like, really really awful. Except for when she realizes it, and tries to find the cat after she already told it to fuck off (her exact words) and tossed it out of a car, but unlike in the movie, Holly doesn’t find the cat right away, so she makes her BFF (whom she calls “Fred,” even though that’s probably not actually his name) promise to find it, and take care of it while she moves to Brazil (Holly is a dick to her friends too). BFF “Fred” finds the cat eventually, but not for weeks. Weeks. Now, I don’t know that Holly neutered the cat. She probably didn’t, because she was Holly and it was the 40s…but, you know, she should have.

Have a solid plan B
After getting dumped via awful breakup letter by Jose, Holly asks BFF Fred to call up the Times, or whatever you call, and get a list of the fifty richest men in Brazil. Audrey Hepburn says this line in the movie too,but in the movie-version of B @ T’s, it’s said in desperation—like, movie-Holly really knows that the guy from the A-team is the one for her, she just can’t bring herself to admit it, so she adorably shrieks, “find me the fifty richest men in Brazil!” because she doesn’t know what else to say or something. But book-Holly is seriously, like, this is legitimately her plan. She is not kidding. 

People don’t belong to people
OK, this one is cheating, because this line is from the movie, not the book, but it is so much more book-Hollyesque than movie-Hollyesque, that I for real thought it was in the book, until I actually looked for it this afternoon and found that it wasn’t. And, OK, I know the point here is supposed to be that Holly is a commitment phobe or something, but screw that, people don’t belong to people. In fact, a lot of really horrible things happen as a result of people thinking that other people belong to them. Like, it’s good to love people, to care about people, to be kind to people, but not to, you know, own people. That’s creepy. It reminds me of when Chris Brown said he owned Rhianna’s vagina. Remember that? Like, two weeks ago, when everyone was talking about that?
Let’s be the opposite of that, OK? Here’s a great poem by Kahlil Gibran about not owning people. Let’s be like Kahil Gibran.
Also, ALSO, after movie-Holly says that awesome thing about people not belonging to people, and Hannibal Smith is all, “yes they do!” You know what movie-Holly should have done? She should have said “screw you!” and hooked up with Greta Garbo or Nehru (the two people that book-Holly describes as her romantic ideal).

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Right on. 

Literary Archetypes: We Are All Sally Bowles

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(OMG! I totally have her hairstyle!)

When I come across a fictional character that I really relate to, I tend to wonder if it’s because I, as an individual, am actually unusually similar to that particular character, or if the character is just meant to be universally relatable—like Harry Potter. Everybody thinks they’re Harry Potter. But I’m not really sure what to think of Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles. Most people’s reaction to her (in informal polls that I have conducted), is usually either, “ZOMG!!! LIZA!!!!” or, “Sally Bowles is shallow and selfish,” or, “what the hell are you talking about, Kat? We’re supposed to be meditating right now.” For some reason though, when I read Isherwood’s novella, I feel super-connected to Sally. I’m definitely lacking in the Liza department (despite my best efforts), so perhaps I might be just an eensy bit more selfish, and a skosh more shallow than the average human? Something I would be surprisingly OK with, but even if I am, I still think Sally represents an archetype that’s more universal* than we think…I mean, she’s at LEAST as relatable as Carrie Bradshaw (really, she basically is Carrie Bradshaw), and EVERYBODY is all like “oh my God, I am TOTALLY a ‘Carrie,’ you guys!”

[* I don’t think “more universal” can really be a thing, but IT IS TODAY.]

Like most people born in the second half of the 20th century, my introduction to Sally was via Liza Minnelli’s portrayal of her in Bob Fosse’s film adaption of “Cabaret”—which, by the way, is my favorite movie; I mean, think about it, BOB FOSSE DIRECTED  A MOVIE BASED ON THE WORKS OF CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD. STARRING LIZA  MINELLI. AND IT WAS A MUSICAL. AND BOB FOSSE CHOREOGRAPHED IT TOO. IT IS THE MOST PERFECT THING EVER. AND IT EXISTS. IT IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT.

So, yeah.

I first saw “Cabaret” when I was around 11 or 12, and I LOVED IT, but I never thought of Sally as a particularly relatable character (though really, what twelve year old is like, “oh, my God, I am TOTALLY Liza, you guys!?” The answer of course, is the best twelve year old ever, if such a twelve year old exists). Sure, I dreamed of playing Sally onstage someday (in an alternate universe where I can sing of course); I liked her costumes and her songs, and her green fingernails, but I saw her very much like I did Roxie Hart—a fun character, but not somebody that was like me, or anybody that I knew in real life. And while outside of my teenage fangirling over really well known musicals that the real theater kids rolled their eyes over, I have zero knowledge of Broadway and the subsequent film adaptions of Broadway musicals, it kind of seems like escapism is the point—who wants to go stare at themselves for three hours when we could stare at fabulous people being fabulous? So that was that. For most of my life, Liza was Sally, and Sally was Liza, and I was singing an off-key version “Mein Herr,” into a hairbrush.

It was actually thanks to yoga that I discovered Isherwood’s Sally. Because of course it was. But really, it was. Christopher Isherwood—probably the most interesting and awesome person that ever existed (or at least the most Googled person in my search history), co-authored this fabulous translation and commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra with his teacher, Swami Prabhavananda (Isherwood also co-authored a translation of the Bhagavad Gita), which I initially read for a teacher training. When I saw his name on the cover, it seemed sort of familiar, but when (thanks to my first ever Isherwood Google) I figured out that Cabaret was based on his stories, my reaction was that of an overstimulated labradoodle [insert your favorite GIF here].

Obvs, that inspired me to read “The Berlin Stories” (and by that, I mean, get a copy of “The Berlin Stories,” and read “Sally Bowles,” ten times), and thus was my introduction to Sally Jackson-Bowles (her name is actually hyphenated, how great is that?) Dear, sweet, terrible, relatable Sally in all of her crass, pretentious, prairie oyster eating glory. Unlike the similar (yet—at least to me—much more difficult to relate to) Holly Golightly, Sally doesn’t have a tragic, or even a very interesting backstory (other than using a fake pregnancy to get out of going to school. But really, haven’t we all done that at one time or another?) Sally is a nineteen year old woman, with loving, supportive parents and a seventeen year old little sister back home, and she’s living in an interesting city, all by herself, and desperately trying to be interesting, pretending she doesn’t give a shit about what anybody thinks when she really, really, REALLY does. She overestimates herself constantly She lives in a really sucky apartment until she finds a nice friend/roommate to move in with, and she makes a lot of really bad decisions, that totally seem like really good decisions at the time. She has big dreams, that are mostly unrealistic. And unlike Liza’s Sally, that’s all,”Oh, hey, hot British guy, let’s go get married– JUST KIDDING, SEE YA LATER!” Isherwood’s Sally experiences the other side of rejection a lot more. She wasn’t an irresistible manic pixie dream girl, she was flawed, naive, gullible  wonderfully human, and pretty damn smart—even though she still was prone to doing the stupidest shit ever, BECAUSE BOYS, or something. She even makes poor fashion choices—the green nails that I so envied as a child? Isherwood describes them as bringing WAY too much attention to her hands, which were super-yellow thanks to all the chain smoking, and he also says that the color she dyes her hair/brows TOTALLY clashes with her eyes. But, BUT, in spite of it all, she has this incredible  unwavering zest for life. She’s a survivor, even though she never knew she’d have to be, and she’s an eternal optimist, even though her optimism is mostly rooted in naivete. (PLEASE TELL ME OTHER PEOPLE CAN RELATE TO AT LEAST SOME OF THIS.)

I think the thing that actually made me like Sally the most was the Prairie Oysters. They’re  in the movie too, so if you’ve seen it, you might remember them. They’re absolutely disgusting, but I think they’re actually a thing, because Wikipedia says they are, but anyway, they’re like, a raw egg, mixed with Worcester sauce. In the novella she says she “practically lives on them,” because they’re cheap, and then she STIRS THEM WITH A FOUNTAIN PEN. And I love her for it. I love her because I understand. I don’t gulp down raw eggs on the regular, but so often I’ll come home, exhausted, and despite my sincere love of food, not eating in order to avoid cooking generally sounds WAY better than cooking, and I don’t want to spend money on pre-cooked food. But damn it, I have to eat, so I boil some water, toss in some oats, and stir in an ungodly amount of peanut butter (usually with an inappropriate utensil, like a chopstick), and then basically drink it down, because PROTEIN, It’s a goddamn prairie oyster is what it is.