Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism By

For anyone wanting to understand what life is like for transsexuals, CONUNDRUM by Jan Morris is a must along with the film THE DANISH GIRL and the book SHE'S NOT THERE: A LIFE IN TWO GENDERS by Jennifer Finney Boylan. CONUNDRUM is a classic, published in the early '70s, when articles, books, and movies about human beings with gender conflicts were not common nor widely available. Morris, who was successful in every sense of the word as James Morris, always felt that inside he was a woman. Understanding that and doing something about it consumed the first half of his life; living as Jan Morris made up the second half. The book covers the before, the process of change, and the after; in addition, Morris takes a step back and talks about men and women in a broader sense who they are, how they behave, and how they are treated in society (or were at the time of writing). Things change, and Morris recognized that fact in an Introduction written for the 2002 edition. I found the book very informative and interesting. If I have any problem with it, it is that the language is formal, intellectual (sending me to the dictionary quite often), maybe as a result of the fact that Morris is Welsh English and when the book was written. Personally, I prefer Boylan's account, which touched me , but perhaps that is the time written and the fact that Boylan is American, uses words I am familiar with, and touched upon the emotional effects of his/her struggle on wife, family, and friends. Both books are worth the time to read. Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism A soldier and correspondent, who once climbed Mount Everest with Mallory in 1953, changes his sex twenty years later and explains transsexualism in a flight of fanciful prose fit for an Oxford graduate. Jan Morris resigns from a successful male life to live out her days as a writer of books and traveler of the world. In this memoir, so unlike the transsexual transition stories in the media today, Morris describes the plight of a true transsexual hiding in a male body until a time comes when he can no longer deal with the conundrum swirling around inside of him. The read can be difficult for all but the educated reader who is well versed in historical events of the time and the affluent language of the sophisticated graduate. Morris tries to dispel myths and reveal the inner workings of the mind of a true transsexual as she explains her view of the significant events of her life. The language is poetic and very descriptive in a modernist writing style, full of internal dialog and descriptions as only an experienced correspondent and travel writer could present. If one is able to pierce the intellectual diatribe Morris uses to convey her story, they will enjoy some clever anecdotes and remarkable historical events. Unfortunately, she delves into some of the interesting moments using conclusory statements about her inner struggle to survive nearly forty years as a male. Here, she leaves the reader wanting but with an appreciation of what it is like to possess male body as a woman and live a rich and multifaceted life among both genders. Morris was obviously still in the throes of the excitement of realizing a life long obsession to change sex and feel normal in her own body when she wrote this story and thus concentrated almost exclusively on the positive auspicious aspects of his conundrum. Unfortunately, she failed to target a specific audience and kept the prose vague and ethereal. It is difficult to determine whether she was avoiding much of the anguish in her early life that for the sake of her former spouse, 5 children, close friends, all who undoubtedly would be left with the aftermath of any expos. It is no less a very well written account of her feelings while in a male body, albeit mostly the joys and absent the chaos associated with the gender dysfunction and lacked honest discussion of the internal conflict endured to achieve her dream. Unlike Lily Elbe's story twenty years earlier, Morris keeps
thoughts controlled. She establishes a brief history of the transsexual experience to date, mentioning Elbe's story, ties to the American transsexual scene of the sixties, Christine Jorgensen, and her meeting with the most influential doctor in modern history, Harry S. Benjamin, whose pioneer research set the standards and course of conduct by the medical community that extends into today. I highly recommend the book to scholars and educated persons able to negotiate the sophisticated verse and intellectual style of writing of a brilliant and well accomplished person and writer. If possible to give 4 and 1/2 stars I would. I only hold back because I felt in trying to sheild friends and family some embarrassment and pain, her writing felt circular, convoluted and restrained and it lacked the verve she has shown to possess as an experienced war correspondent as demonstrated in much of her other writing. Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism What a memorable document for its time and for all time, an engaging account of a person, a life, and not just issues of sex and biology. JM is at pains to say what we now call gender dysphoria was a wider, deeper current in her life. What a wonderful love story too, of having been married, becoming fully female at last, being attracted to men at that point, having to divorce her wife because marriage had to be heterosexual and then staying with Elizabeth and eventually being able to re marry her in old age.

And, her travel writing is as wonderful. Up there with Thubron and the rest. Erudite, funny, everything you'd want. We are lucky to have this Welsh pantheist with us. Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism …in the human condition.

I remember when this book was first published in the 1970’s, having read a review in the “New York Review of Books” on it. At the time I considered the condition too much of an anomaly to read about. There were so many larger groups fighting for their rights and change in status in society: women, blacks, homosexuals, Hispanic farm workers…even veterans of the latest war. Transgender issues certainly are prevalent in the news today, with numerous arguments about bathrooms. One push to read it came from Elizabeth Pisani’s Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism I was interested in this from wanting to understand Transexual people . This part is explained very well from Jan Morris’ point of view. Then again I found this book had so much going on. It was interesting historically and then painted pictures of places and times that were fascinating. This is sometimes a travelogue and is full of wonderful descriptions.
It had a lot to say about men and their position socially, their relationships and what is expected of them.
Some of what Morris comments will now be considered unacceptable but I loved the honesty and fearlessness of the whole thing.
I enjoyed ‘Europe’ and ‘Venice’ and am now encouraged to read of her books. What an amazing woman! Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism

James Morris was a respected journalist before he felt the need to finally admit to himself that he needed to do something about his lifelong feelings that he was a woman living in a man's body. This is the story of going through the transformation to Jan Morris. Excellent reading. Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism


This is a beautifully written bookhonest and forthright without being too sentimental.
A true pioneer..leading the way forward for exceptional woman. Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism With Jan Morris elegance Jan tackles the time he became a she without further ado.
Father of 5 children.
Having to divorce his wife in order to have the surgery he so wanted.
Interestingly the way he was treated as a male then as a female after the change.
I found that very interesting.
A Book I would give to anyone who was in this predicament.
Well written ; why not ? after all as a man his work as an International correspondence shows.
Read it..
Then read Jan’s new book ‘My diary.
Loved both: Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism With so much in the news about transexuals lately I thought that I would read a story from someone who had lived the experience. In the storm of noise to which we are subjected these days, this story story gives a candid, thoughtfully written insight into one person's journey and what emotions took her to that place.
Although it is her own story, Jan's observations are also very objective and she writes with candour, considering the various facets of discomfort with sexual identity that an individual may experience. Her style of writing is engaging and draws one into the story; she has the gift of using prose in exactly the right way to describe in full the sights, sounds and smells of a scene without slipping into the verbosity of which some writers are guilty.
In the final scene, Jan simply asks for acceptance of who she is without any demands for society to change. And it is heartwarming that with very few exceptions, society has done just that. I thank her for sharing her story. Conundrum: from James to Jan--Narrative of Transsexualism

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