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BOOK REVIEW – GORE VIDAL – MYRA BRECKINRIDGE 1968

 

Irreverent social taboo breaking satire by one of America’s greatest novelists.  Myra Breckinridge arrives at a US actor’s academy with dreams of reviving the film industry of the golden 1930’s and 40’s. She also quickly starts to control and dominate the students. One man is less than convinced by her rise to power and success – Buck. He is the Academy principle, and he starts to look into Myra’s past. He quickly discovers that her claim to be the widow of the missing, presumed dead gay millionaire Myron, is utterly fraudulent. Buck is a genuine relative of Myron’s.

 

As Myra seduces and (with a dildo) rapes a college student, Rusty, (a scene that is funny and startling in its detail). and then takes up a lesbian affair with his ex-girlfriend, Ann-Marie,  Buck declares his findings about Myra, expecting to be exposing a ruthless gold-digger. Myra shocks him by stripping in his office to reveal that she is in fact Myron, having had a total and spectacular sex change operation.

 

The news seems to work initially, and Myra thinks she has conquered the male world at last, after it left Myron feeling so weak and insecure. Sexual penetration left him feeling abused and guilty – Myra sees her task in life as avenging that by humiliating all men. Buck seems too concerned by scandal to go public with the truth about Myra / Myron.

 

Revenge is in the air though. Myra recovers from an all too convenient car crash to find that the hospital treating her reverses her sex change treatment and turns her back into Myron, though he is now emasculated and utterly powerless. 

 

Hilarious, with lots of attacks on the decline of Hollywood and male circumcision. 

 

A film version, with Raquel Welsh in the leading role, was so bad that Vidal complained that it stopped the terrific novel from selling copy for a decade. A sequel, Myron was published in 1974 and the books are often issued in one volume

 

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