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Myra Breckinridge [and] Myron by Gore Vidal

Myra Breckinridge [and] Myron (1974)

by Gore Vidal

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A clever, but ultimately hollow, exploration of the boundaries of human sexuality.

Myra Breckinridge shows up on the doorstep of an acting school owned by faded western movie star Buck Loner. She claims to be the widow of his nephew, Myron, and thereby entitled to half of his business and properties.

Myra is interested in conquest and power, both of the temporal and sexual varieties.

I liked the narrative voice, which alternates between excerpts from Myra's journal and transcripts of dictation by Buck. Myra, the wicked, witty narrator reminded me of Humbert Humbert in "Lolita".

In the end, though, this book has a lot less to offer than Nabokov's great book. I don't think we ever really understand Myra's motivations. Some claim this book is a key to understanding a more open view of sexuality, where the divide between heterosexual and homosexual is not so clear cut. If that was indeed the point of the book, why not make that point with a more sympathetic narrator? Myra is petty, violent, and vengeful, and we're never sure exactly what she's supposed to be avenging.

One of Robert Heinlein's "lesser" books, "I Will Fear No Evil", also dealt with the plasticity of human sexuality. Heinlein is generally regarded as a great idea man, but a poor writer. But in the book mentioned above, I think he did a better job explicating the human sexual psyche than Vidal, who is generally regarded as a much better writer than he.

I'm going to have to read Myra's sequel, Myron, and see if my view of Myra changes in retrospect. ( )
  EricKibler | Apr 6, 2013 |
wiki: Myra Breckinridge (1968) is a satirical novel by Gore Vidal written in the form of a diary. It was made into a movie in 1970. Described by the critic Dennis Altman as "part of a major cultural assault on the assumed norms of gender and sexuality which swept the western world in the late 1960s and early 1970s,"[citation needed] the book's major themes are feminism, transsexuality, American expressions of machismo and patriarchy, and deviant sexual practices, as filtered through an aggressively camp sensibility. Set in Hollywood in the 1960s, the novel also contains candid and irreverent glimpses into the machinations within the film industry.

Dismissed by some of the era's more conservative critics as pornographic at the time of its first publication in February 1968, the book immediately became a worldwide bestseller and has since come to be considered a classic in some circles. "It is tempting to argue that Vidal said more to subvert the dominant rules of sex and gender in Myra than is contained in a shelf of queer theory treatises,"[citation needed] wrote Dennis Altman. In 1974 Vidal published a sequel, Myron.
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  edella | Jul 28, 2009 |
Gore Vidal's two related novels in a single volume, with a new introduction by the author. Myra Breckinridge arrives in Hollywood intending to prove that it is possible to work out in life all one's fantasies - and survive. And in "Myron" she returns to battle it out with her eponymous alter ego.
  antimuzak | Oct 22, 2006 |
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