satirical novel by Gore Vidal written in the form of a diary. 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," 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. The controversial book is also "the first instance of a novel in which the main character undergoes a clinical sex-change." Set in Hollywood in the 1960s, the novel also contains candid and irreverent glimpses into the machinations within the film industry.
Myra Breckinridge was dismissed by some of the era's more conservative critics as pornographic at the time of its first publication in February 1968, but nevertheless 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," wrote Dennis Altman. Critic Harold Bloom cites the novel as a canonical work in his book The Western Canon. Vidal called Myra his favorite of his books, and published a sequel, Myron, in 1974.
The novel was adapted into a 1970 film of the same name, which was universally panned. Vidal disowned the film, calling it "an awful joke".
Myra Breckinridge, (film1970)
American comedy film based on Gore Vidal's 1968 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Michael Sarne, and featured Raquel Welch in the title role. It also starred John Huston as Buck Loner, Mae West as Leticia Van Allen, Farrah Fawcett, Rex Reed, Roger Herren, and Roger C. Carmel. Tom Selleck made his film debut in a small role as one of Leticia's "studs". Theadora Van Runkle was costume designer for the film, though Edith Head designed West's costumes.
Like the novel, the picture follows the exploits of Myra Breckinridge as she goes to Hollywood to turn it inside out; also in the story are a former Hollywood siren named Leticia and Myra's alter ego, Myron, who originally was a man before he became Myra.
The picture was controversial for its sexual explicitness (including acts like pegging), but unlike the novel, Myra Breckinridge received little to no critical praise and has been cited as one of the worst films ever made.