“My dear Buck,” I addressed him warmly, a husky Jean Arthur note to my voice

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I am Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess. Clad only in garter belt and one dress shield, I held off the entire elite of the Trobriand Islanders, a race who possess no words for “why” or “because.” Wielding a stone axe, I broke the arms, the limbs, the balls of their finest warriors, my beauty blinding them, as it does all men, unmanning them in the way that King Kong was reduced to a mere simian whimper by beauteous Fay Wray whom I resemble left three-quarter profile if the key light is no more than five feet high during the close shot. (Pg6)

***

There are limits, however, to describing exactly what I see as I write and you read. More to the point, one must accept the fact that there are no words to describe for you exactly what my body is like as I sit, perspiring freely, in this furnished room high above the Strip for which I am paying $87.50 a month, much too much, but I must not complain for a life dream has come true.

I am in Hollywood, California, the source of all this century’s legends, and tomorrow it has been arranged for me to visit Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer! No pilgrim to Lourdes can experience what I know I shall experience once I have stepped into that magic world which has occupied all my waking thoughts for twenty years. Yes, twenty years.

Believe it or not, I am twenty-seven years old and saw my first movie at the age of seven: Marriage Is a Private Affair, starring Lana Turner, James Craig and the late John Hodiak; produced by Pandro S. Berman and directed by Robert Leonard. (Pg.9)

***

I am fortunate in having no gift at all for characterizing in prose the actual speech of others and so, for literary purposes, I prefer to make everyone sound like me. (Pg.10)

***


“Mr. Loner,” I began in a careful low-pitched voice, modeled on that of the late Ann Sheridan (fifth reel of Doughgirls). “I will come straight to the point. I need your help.” That was the wrong thing to say. To ask for anything is always the wrong way to begin a conversation but I am not one to beat about a bush, even a bush as unappetizing as Buck Loner.


He sat back in his steel and black leather chair, a very expensive item selling for about four hundred dollars at the best office supply stores. I know. I worked one entire year at Abercrombie and Fitch, and so got an idea of just how expensive nice things can be. (Pg.12)

***

There is a crash outside my window—was a crash (in the time I took to write “there is a crash” the tense changed). Two cars have collided on the Strip. I heard breaking glass. Now I hear nothing. If the accident was serious there will soon be the sound of a siren. (Pg.16)

***

In fact, I was sufficiently avant-garde in 1959 to recognize the fact that it was no longer the movies but the television commercial that engaged the passionate attention of the world’s best artists and technicians. And now the result of their extraordinary artistry is this new world, like it or not, we are living in: post-Gutenberg and pre-Apocalypse.


For almost twenty years the minds of our children have been filled with dreams that will stay with them forever, the way those maddening jingles do (as I write, I have begun softly to whistle “Rinso White,” a theme far more meaningful culturally than all of Stravinsky or even John Cage). I submitted a piece on this subject to Partisan Review in the summer of 1960.


I believe, without false modesty, that I proved conclusively that the relationship between consumer and advertiser is the last demonstration of necessary love in the West, and its principal form of expression is the television commercial. I never heard from PR but I kept a carbon of the piece and will incorporate it into the book on Parker Tyler, perhaps as an appendix. (Pg.28)

***

“My dear Buck,” I addressed him warmly, a husky Jean Arthur note to my voice, “you are unusual. Unique. You were—are—a star. You were—and through the reruns of your old movies on TV, you still are, permanently—beloved.


Long after these two bodies, yours and mine, have gone to dust and this room is gone, and these boys and girls have all grown old and died and their descendants come and gone, you will live. Buck Loner, the Singin’ Shootin’ Radio Cowboy, astride Sporko, will ride the ranges of the world’s imagination. You are for all time. They are not and never can be.”


I had him there. My famous one-two, learned from Myron: first, excessive flattery with a grain of truth swathed in cultured nacre; then the lethal puncheroo. His face reflected ecstasy and dismay.
Myra’s round. (Pg.40)

Introduction by Camille Paglia.

“I am Myra Breckinridge, whom no man will ever possess.” With that imperious opening sentence, Gore Vidal introduced his flamboyant transsexual heroine, one of the most willful and amusingly self-aware characters in modern literature. Myra’s voice suddenly intruded into Vidal’s consciousness at his penthouse terrace apartment in a shabby seventeenth-century building in Rome’s historic district. It was a unique episode in his more than two decades as an author: “I never quite had that experience, an otherworldly voice, one that took me over. I felt like a medium.”


Vidal was astonishingly prolific, publishing hundreds of essays and twenty-four novels, whose time periods range over thousands of years. His historical novels about American government, such as Burr (1973) and Lincoln (1984), 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 1950s, 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 (1960), chronicling the cutthroat presidential nomination process, was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and is perennially revived on Broadway. He wrote thirty plays for live TV in the 1950s. Among the screenplays to which Vidal contributed in Hollywood were Ben-Hur (1959) and his friend Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)—two of my all-time favorite movies, with which I have been saturated since their first release. Vidal added scenes to Williams’s relatively short play (a baroque postmortem about an ill-fated gay aesthete) and enlarged its setting from an ornate mansion garden to multiple locations in New Orleans.

Edited by: EZorrilla.

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