Saturday, August 8, 2009

172. Myra Breckinridge – Gore Vidal

December 2008.
History: Published in 1968, it is a satirical novel written in the form of a diary. Dismissed by some of the era's more conservative critics as pornographic at the time of its first publication, the book immediately became a worldwide bestseller and has since come to be considered a classic in some circles.
Plot: Myra Breckinridge is an attractive young woman with a mission. She is a film buff with a special interest in the Golden Age of Hollywood -- in particular the 1940s-- and the writings of real-life film critic Parker Tyler. She comes to her uncle Buck Loner's academy for aspiring young actors and actresses in order to teach -- not just her regular classes (Posture and Empathy), but also, as part of the hidden curriculum, femdom ("I'm Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess.") Myra selects as her first victim one of the "studs" at the Academy, a straight young man called Rusty Godowski, whose beautiful girlfriend Mary-Ann Pringle (Farrah Fawcett in the movie version) she at the same time sets out to alienate from him.
In the climactic scene of the novel, Myra has had Rusty come to the infirmary at 10 p.m. under the pretext of having to conduct a medical examination. After tying Rusty face down to the examination table, she at first humiliates him verbally by asking him very personal questions about his sex life and commenting, in rather drastic tones, on the allegedly moderate size of his penis. Finally, she blackmails the student into letting her tie him up to the examination table. She then shocks him by using a strap-on dildo to anally rape him. Afterwards, she even makes him thank her for the trouble she has taken.
Only towards the end of the novel does the reader learn about Myra's secret: Pretending that she is Myron Breckinridge's widow, she demands from her uncle, who owns the Academy, half of what he has built up, while in fact she was Myron, has had sexual reassignment surgery and only poses as his widow. However, when she has a car accident and is hospitalized, Myra is unable to acquire her necessary hormones and is forced to have her silicone breasts removed. In the end, she is transformed back into Myron, and in this state he settles into a peaceful, absurdly cheerful life with Mary-Ann.
The subplot of Myra Breckinridge revolves around the character of Letitia Van Allen (Mae West in the movie), an aging, sexually precocious talent scout whom Myra meets and befriends at the academy, whose office boasts a four-poster bed and whose kinky sexual practices landed her in hospital, "half paralyzed", at the same time Myra finds herself there towards the end of the novel.
Review: A story about a woman, who is actually a man, who tries to infiltrate the Hollywood scene. She’s kind of insane though, and goes after this guy in a big way. It was silly silly silly.
This is the hilarious story of a man who thinks he's a woman, becomes one, then realizes he's a man, and becomes one again. Vidal's theme is the plasticity of gender, language and identity in this postmodern media age. Vidal's wit is on display, along with profound insights about art, films (Myra is an actress), literature, and how to be free and find happiness without ruining your outfit. Myra is nuts, though.
Opening Line: “I am Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess.”
Closing Line: “I think that is a very fine statement and one which, all in all, I’m ready to buy, since it is a proven fact that happiness, like the proverbial bluebird, is to be found in you own backyard if you just know were to look.”
Quotes: “My own participation was limited. I watched, and occasionally helped out; a tickle here, a pull there, a lick, a bite, no more, except or one sudden rude intrusion from the rear which I did not see coming.”
Rating: Strange, crazy, funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment