The Cure for Plastic

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The Cure for Plastic explores a gay man’s relationship to effeminacy through his attempts to adopt traditionally feminine roles, particularly those of the spinster and the homemaker. More specifically, when faced with the primary care of an infant, Lawrence, the narrator, mines his memory to answer the question of why he agreed to adopt the baby in spite of his own reluctance and lack of support from his husband. The uncomfortable, unsatisfactory answer lies with stories of Lawrence’s female role models, his relationships with women, and his own desire to put his house in respectable order. Rooted in his love for women and, at the same time, his misogynistic caricaturing of them, Lawrence’s narration explores the many, and often problematic, ways in which white gay men envision women, femininity, and their own effeminacy. In a time of climate panic, environmental crisis, and the emergence of a vibrant, increasingly intersectional queer community, Lawrence’s inward turn also marks a desire for the privilege of safety, literally the comforts of home, even as they fall away. The critical afterword explores Lawrence’s taciturn narration in light of his troubled adoption of these opposing, yet traditionally feminine roles. This problem is considered from historical, literary, stylistic, and personal perspectives. First, The Cure for Plastic is considered in light of the history of the novel, asking whether this novel, with Lawrence at the helm, constitutes a novel at all. Second, the detritus of the ocean becomes a metaphor for the impulse to tell stories. Third, Lawrence’s resistance to narrative strategies that transform spinsters into mothers is explored through a reading of Anne of Green Gables. Fourth, narratives of gay vanity, especially that of Gaëtan Dugas, often mislabeled the AIDS Patient Zero, are explored to root out the effemiphobia of gay men. Fifth, the literary landscape of New Brunswick is considered against the work of Antonine Maillet, and her ear for orality. Sixth, Lawrence’s relationship to women and traditionally feminine roles are critiqued in light of the misogyny and transmisogyny of gay men through a reading of Peter Wildeblood’s Against the Law and E.M. Forster’s Maurice. Finally, Alice Munro’s distaste for literary “tricks” becomes the basis for a style.
Forestell, P. (2019). The Cure for Plastic (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from