Breakfast on Pluto

( 5 )

Overview

Conceived in a moment of mad passion by a randy Irish priest and his temporary housekeeper — and abandoned on a doorstep in a Rinso box as an infant — her ladyship "Pussy" (né Patrick) Braden grew up fabulous and escaped tiny Tyreelin, Ireland, to start life anew in London. In blousy tops and satin miniskirts she plies her trade as a transvestite rent boy on Picadilly's Meat Rack, risking life and limb among the city's flotsam and jetsam. But it is the 1970s, and fear haunts the streets of London and Belfast — ...

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Overview

Conceived in a moment of mad passion by a randy Irish priest and his temporary housekeeper — and abandoned on a doorstep in a Rinso box as an infant — her ladyship "Pussy" (né Patrick) Braden grew up fabulous and escaped tiny Tyreelin, Ireland, to start life anew in London. In blousy tops and satin miniskirts she plies her trade as a transvestite rent boy on Picadilly's Meat Rack, risking life and limb among the city's flotsam and jetsam. But it is the 1970s, and fear haunts the streets of London and Belfast — and as radioactive history approaches critical mass, the coming explosion of violence and tragedy may well blow Pussy's fragile soul asunder.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & 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.
Irish Times
Distressing and hilarious, satirical and bathetic, over the top and understated, Breakfast on Pluto conveys in the manner of Roy Lichtenstein, matter that wouldn't be out of place in the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. Patrick McCabe has ventured once again into transgressive territory, charting in a deceptively throwaway, highly nuanced manner an orphaned consciousness saturating itself with the slurry of international pop culture as an antidote to lethal local conditions..Patrick McCabe [is] one of the more challenging and intriguing imaginations in Irish fiction today.
Malcolm Jones Jr.
By turns hilarious and pitiably lonely, Patrick is an unforgettable hero.
Newsweek
San Francisco Chronicle
[McCabe is] one of the most brilliant writers ever to come out of Ireland.
Darina Molloy
Half the time the reader doesn't know whether Pussy is off on a flight of fancy, or discussing real incidents, which gives the book a delightfully carefree air.
Irish America Magazine
Guardian
McCabe manages to say more about Northern Ireland's recent history then [sic] many historians have been able to do...A risky, incisive novel.
Weaver
Courtney
Courtney Weaver
. . .[I]n McCabe's world, hope is only the flip side of horror. . .to lull you into a kaleidoscopic land riddled with brutality and comedy. . . .The [book's] underlying grief resonates deeply and personally, transforming what could be a literary trifle into an obsessive gift. . .
— The New York Times Book Review
Logan Hill
Anyone tired of sober, earnest Irish political tracts should find this Dusty Springfield-impersonating narrator's 'pastiche, wickedness, and cheek' more than just sexually liberating.
— New York Magazine
Michiko Kakutani
...[T]he confluence of Pussy's dysfunctional personal life and the dysfunctional life of his country...simply adds a pretentious gloss to what is ultimately a disappointing novel. —The New York Times
Eve Claxton
Fans of McCabe's masterpiece, The Butcher Boy, won't be disappointed by Breakfast on Pluto. After the more detached style of The Dead School, the author has returned to his wildly evocative use of first-person narration, and in Pussy he's found a voice that matches butcher boy Francie Brady's fabulous exuberance.
— Time Out New York
From The Critics
...[A] potent human respite from the once endless Irish troubles — an endlessly mutable narrative/personal canvas on which bombers and lovers leave their mark.
Malcolm Jones, Jr.
By turns hilarious and pitiably lonely, Patrick is an unforgettable hero.
— Newsweek
The Guardian
McCabe manages to say more about Northern Ireland's recent history then [sic] many historians have been able to do...A risky, incisive novel.
Sunday Observer
This is a horrible and pathetic story, told with irresistible zest, brio, and gaiety..[McCabe] is a dark genius of incongruity and the grotesque..[His] brilliant, startling talent is to make enchantingly dashing narratives out of the most ghastly states of mind imaginable, and to induce compassion for lives which seem least to invite it..A cross between Carter's Nights at the Circus, Joyce's parody of Gertie McDowell in Ulysses, and Beckett's Malone. McCabe is a profoundly moral writer, and the engery that pours through his books comes out of that.
GQ Magazine
This is a savagely funny and authentically tragic novel of an Ireland in unhappy transition and beneath McCabe's perfectly delivered black comedy lies an angry heart.
Literary Review
The tragi-comic timbre of Beckett laced with Alex the Droog.
Glasgow Herald
McCabe, through Pussy/Patrick is sharp as a recording angel on conspiracy and collusion.
New York Observer
McCabe may well be the lodestone of Irish fiction in the 1990s.
Irish Times
Distressing and hilarious, satirical and bathetic, over the top and understated, Breakfast on Pluto conveys in the manner of Roy Lichtenstein, matter that wouldn't be out of place in the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. Patrick McCabe has ventured once again into transgressive territory, charting in a deceptively throwaway, highly nuanced manner an orphaned consciousness saturating itself with the slurry of international pop culture as an antidote to lethal local conditions..Patrick McCabe [is] one of the more challenging and intriguing imaginations in Irish fiction today.
The Missouri Review
Breakfast on Pluto is an exciting little book, with enough sex and violence to titillate the most jaded of readers, but in the end it also leaves you with a sweet dream of your own: that maybe there is grace out there, somewhere.
Kirkus Reviews
An account of modern Ireland and her Troubles from the perspective of a small-town transvestite, by one of this year's Booker Prize-finalists (Carn).

Ireland has changed mightily in the last few years, but even today you won't find much of a drag scene in County Monaghan up by the Ulster border. That's where Paddy ("Pussy") Braden got his start in life, courtesy of the parish priest who impregnated Pussy's Ma in a moment of weakness. No one expects a bastard to amount to much in Ireland in the 1960s, but Pussy goes way beyond the worst prejudices of his day. A weakness for his mother's underwear gets him booted out of the house, and on the street he promptly sets up shop as a hooker. One of his regulars is Eamon Faircroft, an IRA officer who always has plenty of cash on hand and is happy to spread it around. After Eamon dies in a bombing, Pussy moves to London to forget his troubles and Ireland's. Fat chance. London in the '70s is rife with Irish terrorists of all stripes, and Pussy turns out to be an IRA recruiter's dream: Who would seem less likely to be planting bombs than a drag queen? Pussy is the type who has a hard time saying no, so he soon finds himself in hot water. But he is also an Irish scoundrel-another type altogether-so you can be pretty sure he'll get away with just about anything he sets himself to. And since the whole tale is offered to us with that no-respecter-of-persons irreverence ("It's bombing night and I haven't got a thing to wear!") that McCabe has spent the last decade perfecting, you can also be sure that the pathos won't sink into the sort of melodrama that Irish narrators have lately been drowning themselves in.

A good yarn, but nowhere near The Butcher Boy: McCabe's terrorist demimonde is at once too bizarre to be moving and too familiar to be fresh.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061121869
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 782,804
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick McCabe was born in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, in 1955. His other novels include The Butcher Boy, The Dead School, and Call Me the Breeze. With director Neil Jordan, he co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of The Butcher Boy.

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Read an Excerpt

It was a beautiful crisp Christmas morning. All across the little village which lay nestled on the southern side of the Irish border, one could sense an air of tense but pleasurable expectancy. Already the small birdies, as if conscious of the coming mood of celebration and acceptable self-indulgence which was so much a part of the much-loved season, had begun their carefully co-ordinated invasions, their industrious beaks like so many arrowheads stiletto-jabbing the frosted gold-tops of the early-morning milk bottles. Even at this early hour, there are one or two children playing—cork guns being proudly displayed and nurses' uniforms flaunted in so many minx-like parades. In places, the snow has begun to melt but this is still a scene that any seasonal greeting card would be more than proud to play host to. A door closes quietly and the first Mass-goer makes her way determinedly through the streets, her Missal clutched tightly and her knitted cap pulled firmly about her ears. Through a gap in the clouds comes the peal of a church bell. Already, the beloved pastor of this parish, Father Bernard McIvor, will be busying himself inside his sacristy. Donning the starched vestments which, it would later be the contention of an ill-informed psychiatrist, were partly responsible for his son's attraction to the airy appareil of the opposite sex.
For him, in many ways, these Christmasses have lost their meaning. Once upon a time, as a young curate, he remembered, he would have held his congregation in thrall with tales of yuletides long ago, and of the special meaning the season had for all Christians throughout the world. His homily topped off, as a plum pudding with a sprig of holly,with one of his truly awe-inspiring renditions of 'The Holy City' or perhaps 'O Holy Night', for which he was renowned throughout the length and breadth of the country. Or had been, once upon a time. But sadly those days were no more. When asked why he no longer sang in the church on Christmas morning, his eyes would appear to glaze over and he would regard his inquisitor with an expression of mystification almost as if the reasons were far beyond him too. Which they weren't, of course, for as many of his parishioners knew, despite rarely giving voice to it in public, the what might be termed: Change in Father Bernard dated back to a single 1950s morning and to no other—the morning he inserted his excitable pee pee into the vagina of a woman who was so beautiful she looked not unlike Mitzi Gaynor the well-known film star. And then arranged for her to go to London so that there would be no dreadful scandal. 'Dear, dear. I wonder what is wrong with Father Bernard,' his parishioners would say, adding: 'He's not the man he was at all.'
It would have been nice, of course, if at any time in the intervening years—particularly at Christmas—he had arrived down to the Braden household with a little present for his son. Which he didn't, of course, with the result that Yuletide celebrations in that particular establishment consisted of one plate of Brussels sprouts, a midget of a turkey and God knows how many half-human children growling and tearing at it like wild animals. And, of course, 'Mummy' sitting puffing Players in the corner, shouting. 'Quit youser fucking fighting! And 'Stop tearing the arse out of that turkey!' Santa jingle-belled all the way to the North Pole. What? On the television? Are you out of your mind? Whiskers Braden couldn't afford to buy televisions! Any jingle-belling there was took place on the beat-up old wireless on the mantlepiece above our dazzling array of wee-wee-stenching undies.
But nevertheless all's well that ends well and now that she's suitably drunk she decides to pull the only cracker available, triumphantly producing it from her handbag and yowling: 'Come on over here and pull this fucking cracker till we get this fucking Christmas finished with!' as, happy family that we are, like a snapshot from the past, we all come crowding around, happy bright-eyed bastards all—Wee Tony, Hughie, Peter, Josie, Caroline and snot-trailing Little Ba, who for such a magnificent display of domestic harmony are hereby presented unopposed with the Patrick Braden all-ireland functional family of the century award! So congratulations, Hairy Ma and all your little out-of-wedlock kids!
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Table of Contents

Patrick McCabe blew critics and readers away with his novelThe Butcher Boy, the story of Francie Brady, a working-class boy in Northern Ireland whose life becomes a violent storm. That novel won the 1992 Irish Times-Aer Lingus Award and was nominated for Britain's Booker Prize. McCabe has returned to Northern Ireland with his new novel,Break on Pluto, which in its own zany wayis and ,Breakfast Tiffany's with a goodly dose of "The Crying Game" thrown in. Starring Patrick "Pussy" Braden, a woman in a man's body who knows how to make magic in the squalid world around her,Breakfast on Pluto is a literary event. McCabe is truly coming into his own, and this new book is wild and wonderful.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
Set in the politically tumultuous London of the 1970s, Breakfast on Pluto follows the misadventures of Patrick "Pussy" Braden, a transvestite prostitute on a quest to find love and a place to call home. Pussy narrates his own story, occasionally pausing to direct comments at Dr. Terence, the psychiatrist who suggested he write it. Born in the border town of Tyreelin, Ireland in the mid 1950s, Pussy is the product of an encounter between the village priest and his beautiful teenaged housekeeper. Abandoned by his mother and unable to contact his father, Pussy is raised by "Whiskers," a chain-smoking, beer-guzzling foster mother. When Pussy begins demonstrating a penchant for women's clothing and female impersonations, he is booted out of his house. He finds temporary contentment with a British politician who acts as sugar daddy until he is killed by the IRA, leaving Pussy alone once more. Searching for his birth mother, Pussy winds up in London where he finds himself hustling in Piccadilly Circus. Although decidedly apolitical, the terminally exuberant Pussy cannot help being drawn into the terror around him as his friends and lovers are murdered and bombings become a regular occurrence. As he flirts with a soldier in a club one night, a bomb explodes, blowing the soldier to ribbons. When Pussy is arrested on suspicion of planting the bomb, he begins to lose his already tenuous hold on reality. Despite the obvious losses, Pussy never seems to lose hope in his dream of finding love. A courageous optimist, Pussy Braden navigates a world splintered by violence with "pastiche, wickedness and cheek." He and his story areunforgettable.

Topics for Discussion
1. Aside from the narrator himself, all the characters in this novel are viewed through the shifting lens of Pussy Braden's perspective. Several characters, in fact, exist only in Pussy's imagination. Aside from Pussy, which of these characters, real or imagined, are the most carefully drawn and which leave the most lasting impressions? Why?

2. The author has stated that in early drafts of this novel the character of Pussy Braden was conceived as a female but that as he continued writing, he "realized it wasn't about a girl at all." How is Pussy's sexual identity critical in conveying the novel's themes of identity and disassociation?

3. What is the view of religion expressed in Breakfast on Pluto? How does this view shape the internal conflicts of the characters and the external conflicts of their environment? Which scenes in particular support your opinion?

4. Does Pussy Braden's irreverent attitude towards Ireland's troubles ("It's bombing night and I haven't got a thing to wear") diminish or accentuate the horror around him? Is the voice of Pussy Braden more or less effective than those in other Irish novels in its description of Ireland's turmoil?

5. Popular music has a strong presence in Breakfast on Pluto, and the title is derived from a 1969 pop hit. Patrick McCabe, who is a practicing part-time musician, has said that "you could make the case that all art aspires to be music." Is there a sense of musicality in this novel? If so, how is it manifested?

6. Given his preoccupations with fantasy and lapses in sanity, can Pussy be a reliable narrator? If not, discuss the ways in which his unreliability affects your understanding of the novel's events. If you find him reliable, discuss why.

7. The author has said that Breakfast on Pluto is a much darker novel than he had originally intended to write. Is there any sense of hopefulness by the novel's end? How does Pussy's consistent optimism in the wake of so much personal tragedy affect your impressions?

8. Discuss the concept of borders as it is presented in Breakfast on Pluto. Which borders are crossed in this novel, and which remain impenetrable?

9. Patrick McCabe has said that "Ireland is always referred to as a woman. Sometimes it's the Old Woman and sometimes it's the Aisling or the Dark Rosaleen or Cathleen Ni Houlihan. Pussy Braden is my equivalent of that sort of thing." In what way (s) is the character of Pussy Braden a metaphor for modern Ireland?

About the Author: Patrick McCabe was born in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, in 1955. He has published four other novels, Music on Clinton Street (1986), Carn (1989), The Butcher Boy (1992), and The Dead School (1995). He cowrote with director Neil Jordan the screenplay for The Butcher Boy and is finishing a collection of stories.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 3, 2008

    Good

    Good

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2008

    Pass this one!!

    I read this novel for my summer english class and thought it was awful. Not only was it written poorly, but confusing aswell.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    Wonderfully Flamboyant!

    This is one you've got to read. Kitten is one of the best characters ever created! This book gives us a chance to see Ireland beyond the Catholicism. I also love, love, loved the film.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2009

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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