Literary Mixtape: Holly Golightly


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Truman Capote’s “American Geisha,” Holly Golightly.

Holly Golightly is a complicated character. Having run away from her country life, she reinvents herself as a “café society girl” on the Upper East Side of New York in the 1940s. As Capote himself said, “Holly Golightly was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check … if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night.” Indeed, and so much more than that — a girl on the run from any feeling of entrapment, picky and eccentric, whose moral ground is shaky at best (she cares deeply for her family but can’t be stirred to feel any guilt for stealing a friend’s beau). We think she’d listen to an eclectic mix of things, but nothing that would get her too worked up. Here’s what we think she would go out to eat, visit Sally Tomato, and refuse to name her cat to.

Stream the mixtape here.

“New Slang” — The Shins

Since she was pretty much our first experience of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype, we think she might take a little music advice from one of her many modern incarnations — this one with headphones and a promise.

“Marlene on the Wall” — Suzanne Vega

Vega’s wistful ode to her portrait of Marlene Dietrich seems like it would be right up Holly’s alley — if only because we can totally picture her singing a song to a poster. Vega’s own thoughts on Dietrich somehow remind us of Holly as well: “I loved Marlene Dietrich for her image. Just her image. And that cruel streak which I find attractive… kindness to me is only powerful if it has the cruel streak behind it. If someone is kind all the time under all circumstances, they’re just simple-minded. Kindness is only worth something if you have the cruel streak to back it up.”

“Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” — Rufus Wainwright

Holly has just as many strange and specific likes and dislikes as Rufus does, if not more. And as a definite fellow pleasure-seeker, we think she’d understand.

“Stay Up Late” — Talking Heads

This song captures the weird playfulness that we love about Holly — the qualities in her that would lead her to steal Halloween masks from Woolworth’s are the same ones that would undoubtedly make her like this song.

“New York, I Love You” — LCD Soundsystem

But of course, Holly would have to listen to at least one ode to her beloved New York. This one is probably the best — at least by the end, when she feels compelled to disappear forever.

“Cool Kids Keep” — The American Analog Set

As a “café society girl,” Holly’s got to keep her image up. Here’s a track for smoking and looking cooly off into the distance.

“Sleep Alone” — Bat For Lashes

All other things aside, our poor Holly is isolated and lonely, and prone to wandering into near-strangers’ rooms and falling asleep in their beds. Whether it’s to keep herself from another night alone, who can say?

“Yes, So On and So On” — Thao with the Get Down Stay Down

Here’s another band we think Holly would be into for their sweet off-kilter aspect. Plus, she might find something to work towards (or to identify with) in this particular track’s lyrics: “I am going away but not away from you/ I have found the difference between the two…”

“Chewing Gum” — Annie

For bopping down the street on the way to Tiffany’s.

“The Boxer” — Simon & Garfunkel

Here’s a song Holly could play on the windowsill (if she had the chops): a gorgeous moody folk ballad about running away from home, putting stock in broken promises, and getting continually knocked down by life — but, like Holly herself, “the fighter still remains.”