Breakfast on Pluto – Review
* Patrick McCabe * HarperFlamingo * $22
Famed Gen-X novelist Bret Easton Ellis recently told Rolling Stone he doesn’t identify as gay after all, but I’m not sure if that’s a minus or a plus. His books are either vapid (Less Than Zero) or misogynistic (American Psycho); the talent is there, everyone one agrees, but what on earth is going on in the poor guy’s mind?
Much more than we possibly could have imagined, it turns out. His new book, Glamorama, is sick, twisted, and possibly brilliant–or “brill,” as Ellis-speak would phrase it. It secures his reputation as the Jeffrey Dahmer of novelists–dangerous and deranged, yet you have to hand it to him: When it comes to dismembering body parts and storing them in the fridge, nobody does it better. The skill, the precision … Clearly, here is a man who is doing what he was born to do.
Glamorama tells the story of one Victor Ward, a model-club entrepreneur and boyfriend du jour of Chloe Byrnes, the most famous supermodel in the world. At first it delineates their frantic lives as they race from runway show to club opening to TriBeCa loft to Four Seasons Hotel, downing Snapple, changing clothes, chewing Mentos, bumming Marlboros. But it turns out this is just a prelude to the book’s real concern. Victor is offered a large sum of money to find a woman who was once in love with him, and after he enters his first-class stateroom on the QE2, Glamorama changes locale to London and Paris and changes genre from clubland tell-all to a sort of North by Northwest for our times, clogged with Prada-wearing terrorists, electronic equipment that can do the most amazing things, and innocent people being killed in the most gruesome ways possible–all described in much more detail than necessary.
Glamorama is the perfect fin de siecle novel–overripe, cynical, decadent, weighed down by years of too much sex and violence, too many drugs and brand names. It has much more plot than it needs, and it drops so many names that I began to seriously suspect–then hope–that mine might be next, a rather unlikely occurrence considering that I live in a trailer park in Florida. But for all its faults and for all the scorn that will undoubtedly be heaped upon it, I can’t think of another novel that deals so imaginatively with the media-driven technological and ideological cesspool that has become modern life.
Glamorama does not come across as being written by a gay man, and perhaps that’s just as well. Another recent novel that does, even though it wasn’t, is the marvelous Breakfast on Pluto by the Irish writer Patrick McCabe, author of The Butcher Boy. Breakfast on Pluto also deals with terrorism–the Irish variety–but while Glamorama is successfully disgusting, McCabe’s book is successfully exhilarating. Its narrator and undisputed star is the unsinkable transvestite hooker Pussy Braden, part Mother Courage, part Mitzi Gaynor. Her amorous and political adventures–some hilarious, some horrific–are infinitely truer and more moving than anything Victor Ward comes up against. Still, I have very little doubt as to who will get all the attention.
Plunket is the author of My Search for Warren Harding and Love Junkie.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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