I felt like a medium. The impetus for the novel was an invitation which he declined from British theater critic and producer Kenneth Tynan to contribute a sketch to Oh! Myra cohered in his mind, Vidal suggested, because of the residual presence of the Egyptian goddess Isis and her heraldic cats still populating modern Rome. His apartment on the Largo Argentina, not far from the Pantheon, overlooked the ruins of four Roman temples. Her skimpy costume was a patriotic fantasia on the American flag.
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I felt like a medium. The impetus for the novel was an invitation which he declined from British theater critic and producer Kenneth Tynan to contribute a sketch to Oh! Myra cohered in his mind, Vidal suggested, because of the residual presence of the Egyptian goddess Isis and her heraldic cats still populating modern Rome. His apartment on the Largo Argentina, not far from the Pantheon, overlooked the ruins of four Roman temples.
Her skimpy costume was a patriotic fantasia on the American flag. Vidal had a close view of this polychrome icon from his rooms at Chateau Marmont, where he first resided as a script doctor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the late s.
Eerily impressive glimpses of the statue still smoothly revolving are featured in the disastrous movie of Myra Breckinridge, among whose few other positives are the dynamic performance and steely armored look of Raquel Welch as Myra. Posters of Welch colorfully costumed and archly posed like the statue are still widely marketed.
Article continues after advertisement Myra Breckinridge was a surprise sensation: 85, copies were sold even before its release in February Later that year, two million copies of the paperback were sold in a month. Vidal had intuitively caught the subterranean disturbances and conflicts then intensifying in the burgeoning sexual revolution, inaugurated by the release of the first birth control pill in When Myra debuted, it was still very difficult to convince most people to take gender seriously as an analytic category.
I speak from harsh experience: in , I graduated from college and entered graduate school and was already immersed in library research about sex. As an only child, he was helplessly subject to her alcoholic whims and rages. Vidal was a sexual magnet for both men and women from his early adulthood on. He was a stunningly handsome young man, beautifully proportioned as can be seen in beach photos and with an easy, amiable public manner that would one day serve him well on TV. Buckley Jr. Growing up in Washington as the grandson of a sitting senator, Thomas Pryor Gore of Oklahoma, he saw politics from the inside and developed his cynical view of human behavior as motivated solely by self-interest.
A trace of this can be detected in the way that Myra Breckinridge sweeps into an institutional setting a Hollywood acting school and reduces it to her personal agenda. The paying students like tax-burdened American voters are mere pawns in her master plan for power. Vidal was born at the masculine citadel of the U.
Eugene later became Franklin D. It is possible he had an affair with Amelia Earhart, whom little Gore dreamed of having for a mother. His own mother, Nina, was a theatrical, self-absorbed socialite with Mississippi roots and a Creole grandmother.
When he made the cover of Time magazine in , Nina wrote a letter to the editor attacking him. Auchincloss, later became the second husband of Janet Lee Bouvier, mother of Jacqueline, who would marry a rising political star, John F.
Army instead of going on to college. His experiences on a military supply ship in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska would form the basis of his first novel, Williwaw marine slang for a storm wind , published in when he was What made him instantly notorious, however, was his third novel, The City and the Pillar alluding to the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah , released two years later.
This frank and unapologetic depiction of male homosexuality became a huge bestseller, eventually selling a million copies in paper despite the refusal of major newspapers and magazines to review it and The New York Times even to advertise it. Vidal had begun his lifelong project of arguing that homosexuality is perfectly natural and that the men who practice it are just as masculine as heterosexuals.
The novel depicts the bars, parties, and rituals of urban gays; women are seen with chilly distance. The finale is a violent bedroom murder that Vidal removed in a revised edition, where he substituted anal rape, prefiguring the infamous climax of Myra Breckinridge. She is constantly reviewing her own performance and invariably applauding herself.
Vidal was astonishingly prolific, publishing hundreds of essays and 24 novels, whose time periods range over thousands of years. His historical novels about American government, such as Burr and Lincoln , became major bestsellers.
He was rarely included in the college curriculum, however, partly because postmodernist novels were in the ascendant. It always galled him to be classified as an essayist rather than a novelist. In the early s, purely to make money, he published three murder mysteries under the pseudonym Edgar Box.
Vidal also wrote for the stage: his most famous play, The Best Man , chronicling the cutthroat presidential nomination process, was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and is perennially revived on Broadway. He wrote 30 plays for live TV in the s.
An openly gay poet and bohemian writer in Greenwich Village from the s on, Tyler was in fact a major film critic whose exclusion from academic film studies is scandalous. His fusion of Frazerian myth criticism with Walter Pater—style prose poems had immense impact on the development of my own work. Breckinridge played an alien ruler in the cult film Plan 9 from Outer Space and would become a stylish fixture of hippie-era San Francisco.
Myra Breckinridge ingeniously literalizes the unstable power relations in sex whose origin nature or nurture? Myra seeks dominance and control in sex—precisely what those closest to Vidal have said of him. At La Rondinaia, his cliffside villa in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, Vidal had a settled routine: work in the morning, sex in the afternoon, friends in the evening.
That triangulated pattern was surely a starkly efficient compartmentalization. Sex, I submit, was where Vidal voyaged to isolate and purify the masculine principle and to defend its freedom.
In social gatherings, however pleasant, he lost contact with his core self, which was forged and recovered by writing. Twins had been an obsession for Vidal in childhood.
Gore Vidal was a tremendous role model for any aspiring independent thinker. He was a bold provocateur, a cosmopolitan bon vivant, and a deeply learned man of letters for whom writing was a higher calling. He scorned every establishment and turned his scathing wit against all dogma and cant. His heretical view that the terms heterosexual and homosexual describe acts and not persons was revolutionary and, to me, profoundly true.
I have no higher praise.
I assumed at first that he was taking the piss. But, both before and after reading, it also seemed to sit in a tradition of transgressive humour, much of it witty, but some more shock and offence-based such as is used by some drag queens in comedy - see for example this negative Guardian review of Bianca del Rio. This, along with the late s-early s context of transgressive literary fiction and intellectual counterculture e. The early part of the novel has one of those deliciously camp, waspish outrageous sort of voices which I first came to love as an Oscar Wilde-obsessed teenager in the s.
Plot[ edit ] An attractive young woman, Myra Breckinridge is a film buff with a special interest in the Golden Age of Hollywood—in particular the s—and the writings of film critic Parker Tyler. Here, she gets a job teaching, not just her regular classes Posture and Empathy , but also, as part of the hidden curriculum, female dominance. Still in the process of transitioning and unable to obtain hormones, Myra reverts to Myron, and, as a result of the injuries she has sustained in a car accident, she is forced to have her breast implants removed. Now a eunuch, Myron decides to settle down with Mary-Ann. She intends only to observe but suffers a "rude intrusion" by a member of the band The Four Skins, from which she derives a perverse, masochistic enjoyment.