“House of Flowers” and “A Diamond Guitar” by Truman Capote

I am just finishing up this volume of Capote’s, which includes Breakfast at Tiffany’s and three short stories (the third is “A Christmas Memory“). I am rewarding myself with just a little bit of a break from school.

Short, easy, sweet reading. “House of Flowers” felt familiar to me; I think I must have encountered it somewhere before, because I recognized the memorably named Royal Bonaparte and the protagonist, Ottilie. Strangely, they don’t get developed very much as characters; there’s not much personality, aside from Ottilie’s vanity and Royal’s strange confidence and eventual diffidence. The friends from the city, Baby and Rosita, have a bit more personality. But mainly this is a story of types, or of the mysterious quality and damage of love (or of “love”). I liked it, though, with its bright colors and clear movements. It’s telling that the title of the story names not an emotion or a person or an event, but a place: the “house of flowers” that Royal brings his bride home to, where “wisteria sheltered the roof, a curtain of vines shaded the windows, lilies bloomed at the door.” “It’s like you picked a wagon of flowers and built a house with them,” Ottilie tells her friends when they come looking for her. “It’s cool inside and smells so sweet.”

And this is a sweet story, but not because all its contents are sweet. It has the Capote way of showing sadness and wrong, but with flowers. I don’t know how else to put it. I find it curious to think about Capote, after moving as a child from Louisiana to Alabama to New York and Connecticut and as a young adult, back to Alabama, writing about a young woman looked down upon as a native of the Haitian mountains. I wonder how much he really knew about what he was writing about.

“A Diamond Guitar” feels like a simpler story, or one I know better, although I can’t say why. I know love and friendship between women (as in “House”) better than I know prison and male friendship, as here. But the older man and his friendship with a younger man, and a not-entirely-successful jailbreak – maybe it’s Shawshank Redemption I’m thinking about, or Cool Hand Luke, or something. This felt in a way sweet and simple and predictable, but so feelingly told… as in the older man’s recollection that his friend still has so much growing up to do.

Both stories were easy to read and to feel. Both are about emotion. Both, I’m sure, can be read much more deeply than this; on the surface they seem simple and straightforward, but I don’t mean that negatively. I enjoyed falling into these worlds, and that’s the thing about short stories done right. So much in a few pages.

Thanks, Capote, for the break.

Rating: 7 yellow cats.

2 Responses

  1. Love a good short story.

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