A rugged tale of brute beauty and pyrrhic individualism.
When Bruce Jenner took his iconic victory lap around Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on July 30, 1976, he invited the world to witness the zenith of his triumphant transformation from talented small-town athlete to Superman-like decathlete for the ages. Fast-forward nearly 40 years, when he found himself nearly powerless on the side of the road, begging TMZ not to publish word of his tracheal shave that would signal to the world, and especially to those dear to him, an even greater physical transformation he was then desperate to conceal. Shuttling between past and recent watershed moments in this intimate tell-all memoir, Jenner now recounts path-breaking strides and missteps on the road from Bruce, who “existed for sixty-five years,” to Caitlyn, “just going on her second birthday.” With the help of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bissinger, who penned the 2015 Vanity Fair feature accompanying Annie Leibovitz’s first portraits of Caitlyn, Jenner explores extraordinary episodes in the years spent attempting to reconcile Bruce’s “public figure” with his “private shadow” as he negotiated multiple marriages, children, and various careers, all while wrestling with the self-described gender dysphoria that led him to identify as female as early as age 10. Referring to his years of Olympic training as the “Grand Diversion” from innate gender issues, the author insists, “Bruce was not a lie. Bruce existed: what I did lie about or at least obfuscate was Caitlyn’s existence.” He describes pivotal moments, such as first wife Chrystie’s 1973 discovery of her husband’s “gender issues,” and he provides insight into the hollow, post-Olympic years spent doing motivational speeches on overcoming the competitor within while sporting “panties and a bra and pantyhose” beneath his business suit.
Painting a life both shallow and deep, painstakingly choreographed and unscripted, Jenner’s candid portrait of a self in the remaking is a marvel to behold.