(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Myra Breckinridge is twenty-seven years old when she inherits her dead husband’s portion of an acting academy, which is co-owned by a former “singin’, shootin’, cowboy” star of radio and movie fame. Myra, who begins her narrative by describing herself as a woman “whom no man will ever possess,” in appearance imitates such former film stars as Fay Wray, Jean Harlow, and Lana Turner. Myra declares that the novel form is dead and that there is no point “to writing made-up stories.” As far as Myra is concerned, the films of the 1940’s were the high point of Western artistic creation, although she believes it is in her time being surpassed by a higher art form, the television commercial. According to Myra, her real mission in Hollywood is to fulfill her destiny of reconstructing the genders.

Myra characterizes herself as the “New Woman” whose “astonishing history” she is recording as part of therapy for her “analyst, friend, and dentist,” Dr. Randolph Spenser Montag. Myra characterizes her co-owner in the acting academy, Buck Loner, as “not the man he had been when he made eighteen low-budget Westerns; now he is huge, disgusting, and old.” He is also trying to seduce Myra, despite her being the widow of his only nephew, Myron Breckinridge, who had drowned the previous year while riding on the Staten Island ferry. Myra implies that Myron had not taken his own life.

In his part of the narrative, Buck details his deceased nephew’s homosexuality and career as a movie reviewer. Loner has hired a private investigation agency, Flagler and Flagler, to examine the deed to the academy and make a careful investigation of his nephew’s widow, Myra; he is hoping to find a loophole that will prevent her from inheriting a property he feels is his alone, despite the academy having been built with money from Myron’s mother, Gertrude.

Myra considers it her mission in life to teach such aspiring young stars as Rusty Godowsky and such old cowboy stars as Loner what it means to be a man in the age of “Woman Triumphant.” As Myra declares, “To be a man in a society of machines is to be an expendable, soft auxiliary to what is useful and hard.” Myra believes there is nothing left for the old-fashioned male to do, no physical struggle to survive and mate. She...

(The entire section is 945 words.)