Truman Capote is the 1st Gossip Girl

Dans le cadre de mon cours d’Anglais professionnel en Master Pro de l’écrit, j’ai écrit un billet de blog en anglais, que j’ai ensuite traduit en français. Vous pouvez retrouver la version française ici : Truman Capote, 1ère Gossip Girl de la 5e avenue.

What do Gossip Girl, a 2000s tv show, and The Swans Of Fifth Avenue by Mélanie Benjamin, a novel inspired by true facts about New York’s 1950s-1970s high society have in common? Class, wealth, and scandals. Let’s focus on the timeless elegance of Manhattan’s elite.

I am one of the jurors for Livre de Poche’s Reader’s Choice Award. In May, I received The Swans Of Fifth Avenue, a novel written by Mélanie Benjamin. From the outset, I really liked the book’s front and back covers.


The Swans of the Fifth Avenue by Mélanie Benjamin

Truman Capote is an eccentric and wacky novelist. He became friends with beautiful, chic and wonderful women who were excessively rich –  his Swans of Fifth Avenue. Their friendship is lightning, immense an possessive.In gaining their trust, Capote learned the elite’s secrets, gossips, and betrayals. A golden mine for this novelist. What is the worth of friendship in a money-driven, and scandalous world?

This story reminds me some memories. Not writting ones, like Zola, Maupassant or Marivaux, but one of my guilty pleasures: Gossip Girl.

Gossip Girl is a TV show that takes place around 5th Avenue. Serena, Blair, Chuck and Nate are four young, good-looking and rich high school students. These sons and daughters of CEOs, high-profile lawyers, fashion designers, or politicians,hail from the Upper East Side. Meaning their life consists of shopping, galas, parties, and most of all, gossip. In fact, a blog, signed by an unknown Gossip Girl, rules the roost by posting secrets, slander, and revelations. One day,Dan Humphrey, shows up in this little society. This Brooklyner dreams of becoming a famous writer and falls in love with the incredible Serena.

The similarities between Mélanie Benjamin’s novel and one of the best TV shows of my teenage years are obvious. Both deal with the great Manhattan, where the look, the grandiose and success, backstabbing and cheating are a part of everyday life. A seemingly ageless culture that I love.

Fifth Avenue, a center of worldliness

The fifth avenue, the fifth avenue… What’s the fifth avenue after all ? Peanuts. Only one of the most important street in Manhattan. As central as the French Avenue des Champs Elysées. It is quite attractive because it goes along Central Park; all the housings which have a view on this big green square are really expensive. There are also luxury boutiques like Tiffany’s (which Truman Capote immortalized in his short story, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’). The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the Guggenheim, and the Frick Collection are also on Fifth Avenue.


You understand why it is the place to be for Truman Capote’s ‘swans’. The female characters of the novel, Babe, Slim, Gloria the Guiness, C.Z, Marella, and Pam all immaculately dressed and done up, always ready for the paparazzis spend their days shopping. During the reading, we enter with them in the luxury shops, and we love the description of spines, marble and golden mirrors. Did you know that there are sitting rooms in the shops? And the most famous customers have their own saleswoman? Awesome? Superficial? According to me, it is quite distinguished.

What about the events? Wonderful. High society knows how to party. Brunches, sumptuous dinners, incredible proms and galas, weekends in the countryside, breaks in a yacht, summers overseas. What a life!

Admiration and disregard

How sweet the life in Manhattan seems, partying all day! Still, everyone has misfortune. High society seems so bored that all they can do is badmouth. Scandals and rumors are the business of Truman and The Gossip Girl. And that’s what I like, I have to admit.


Maybe all of this is true, maybe it is just a common fantasy about this part of the society. No matter. The stories inspired by this culture are really interesting: an upstart who is dazed by his success, great women who have weaknesses, games of power and manipulations… They are endless fiction subjects and they feed my dream of greatness.

I do recommend this novel, and this tv show, which is more interesting than we think at first sight.

On that note, XOXO, Gossip Girl.

Check the French version of this blog post here.

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