In my three months’ binge of Drag Race, while Violet Chachki experimented with new ways to cinch her waist, I experimented with backward baseball hats and letterman jackets. Under the influence of sequins and glitter, I figured out which boyish colors went best with my skin tone: navy, brown, gray, and dark green. Raglan became my favorite word. At the age of twenty-seven, I learned how to tie boat shoes. I bled breaking in my inaugural pair, like a new queen strutting in stilettos for the first time. . . . The advice I have for my boyhood ghost is something that’s never come out of a drag queen’s mouth. To him, I say, it’s okay to fit in—it’s okay to enjoy and flaunt the style of the thing that’s also oppressing you.
If you study literature you will come across the narrative form called the Picaresque. These episodic, usually naughty yet humorous works of extended prose started in Spain in the 16th century. The name comes from the “picaro” who was the hero, or anti-hero of the work. The picaro was a bit of a rogue, in and out of adventures, petty larceny, loose or easily won-over women, and always with a sense of humor and a salty tongue. Don Quixote is really a picaresque that got out of hand and turned itself into something new … or novel.
In more contemprary literature we have Saul Bellow’s Augie March as probably the best example of a modern picaresque, but there are many others (how about Tom Jones?). Back in the ’60s Maxwell Kenton (nom de smut of Terry Southern) wrote a delightful little picaresque that was very popular, especially in the more liberal colleges; it was called Candy. Read it? I remember thinking at the time how so much depravity could be so much innocent fun (Little Annie Fanny is another good choice, but it was a graphic story).
While reading Iceland by Jim Krusoe I jumped back a few years and dredged up comparisons with Candy.