Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Book Review: "The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon" by Moira Greyland

The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon by Moira Greyland (Castalia House, 2017)

I wasn’t overly active in fandom when Moira Greyland went public about the abuse suffered by her and others at the hands of her mother and father, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen. (I was a member of the N3F, but I somehow missed the broader repercussions across fandom.) I was unaware of the 2014 uprising and fallout in terms of Bradley’s waning favor. And I wasn’t even alive during the Breendoggle that rocked Bay Area fandom in the early ’60s. So, while preparing for a medical procedure earlier this year, I turned to Greyland’s 2017 memoir, The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon.

The memoir mostly focuses on the abuse Greyland experienced from Bradley and Breen, and Bradley’s covering up of Breen’s sexual activities and preferences over the years. About half the book is made up of depositions taken as part of related court cases. If you don’t know much about the Breendoggle that happened in the Bay Area in the early ’60s, or Greyland’s subsequent going public, it’s a horrific read, and not one that I’d recommend even for the most rabid rubberneckers. 

It makes absolute sense that Bradley has fallen out of favor—and that many of her books are now available only through print-on-demand editions issued by her trust. Yet after reading Greyland’s expose, I wondered whether Bradley’s work was worth returning to. Naif that I am, I haven’t even read The Mists of Avalon, which I understand to be the work that gave Bradley her unexpected wealth and prestige—though her abuse far predated her fame. (This review was previously published in slightly different form in the APA-L apazine Telegraphs & Tar Pits #4.)

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