Breakfast On Pluto
With wonderful delicacy and subtle insight and intimation, McCabe creates Mr. Patrick “Pussy” Braden, the enduringly and endearingly hopeful hero(ine) whose gutty survival and yearning quest for love resonate in and drive the glimmering, agonizing narrative in which the Troubles are a distant and immediate echo and refrain.
As Breakfast on Pluto opens, her ladyship, resplendent in housecoat and head scarf, reclines in Kilburn, London, writing her story for the elusive psychiatrist Dr. Terence, paring her fingernails as she reawakens the truth behind her life and the chaos of long-ago days in a city filled with hatred. Twenty years ago, she escaped her hometown of Tyreelin, Ireland, fleeing her foster mother, Whisker—prodigious Guinness-guzzler, human chimney—and her mad household (endless doorstep babas!), to begin a new life in London. There, in blousey tops and satin miniskirts, she plies her trade, often risking life and limb among the flotsam and jetsam who fill the bars of Piccadilly Circus (“You want love? That what you want, orphaned boy without a home? Then die for it! Die! Die, sweet Irish!). But suave businessmen and lonely old women are not the only dangers that threaten Pussy’s existence. It is the 1970s, and fear haunts the streets of London and Belfast as the critical mass of history builds up, and Pussy is inevitably drawn into a maelstrom of violence and tragedy destined to blow his fragile soul asunder.
Brilliant, startling, profound, and soaring, Breakfast on Pluto combines lightness and darkness, laughter and pain, with such sensitivity, directness, and restraint that the dramatic impact reverberates in our minds and hearts long, long after the initial impression.
Patrick McCabe hit pay dirt with his third novel, The Butcher Boy, which was short-listed for the 1992 Booker Prize, filmed by Neil Jordan, and acclaimed as “a masterpiece of literary ventriloquism.” In his fifth, Breakfast on Pluto, also on the Booker shortlist, McCabe produces another inimitable voice to amuse and infuriate, mimicking perfectly the overwrought, near-hysterical style of a character whose emotional processes were cruelly halted somewhere around the age of 14, and whose tale requires English literature’s highest concentration of exclamation marks.
Patrick “Pussy” Brady is recording her memoirs for the mysterious Dr. Terence, and it’s quite some story. After randy Father Bernard gets carried away with his temporary housekeeper, a dead ringer for Mitzi Gaynor, the result is Patrick Braden, abandoned on a doorstep in a Rinso box and condemned to a foster home with the alcoholic Hairy Braden. Escape comes in fantasies of Vic Damone and the occasional glitzy frock, and eventually, inevitably, the rebaptised “Pussy” heads for life as a transvestite rent boy on Piccadilly’s Meat Rack. But this is not just Pussy’s story; as hitherto-muffled paramilitary violence blows up in her face, Pussy falls apart, providing a vivid and unsettling final comment on the human price paid in 1970s Ireland. —Alan Stewart
Barnes and Noble
Set in Ireland and in England during the mounting political violence of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Patrick McCabe’s Booker Prize-nominated Breakfast on Pluto is the simultaneously high-spirited and deeply sad monologue of orphan, transvestite, and consummate misfit Patrick “Pussy” Braden. The novel opens in London, as “her ladyship” breathlessly records the chaotic nightmare of her past for the elusive psychiatrist Dr. Terence. Twenty years earlier, Pussy fled the mad household of his Guinness-guzzling mother-for-hire in provincial Tyreelin, Ireland, to begin a new life in London. There, in the seedy West End, he risks life and limb as a transvestite prostitute. But the troubles follow Pussy as surely as his own terrible neediness; when an IRA bomb explodes in a London bar, the police finger him as the culprit.
Both epic and intimate, Breakfast on Pluto uses the life of Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins), a queer orphan boy, to explore the hidden worlds that lie beneath so-called “normal” society—the subcultures of homosexuals, the Irish Republican Army, and prostitutes. At odds with his conservative Irish town, Patrick rebels with the fearlessness of someone whose life feels worthless. When he leaves for London, where he hopes to find his mother, he joins a touring rock band, is almost murdered, becomes assistant to a magician…