From Publishers Weekly
In this collection of essays, noted novelist and critic Vidal turns his acerbic wit on the United States. Never shy about expressing his opinion, Vidal questions U.S. assumptions regarding the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings: "That our ruling junta might have seriously provoked McVeigh and Osama was never dealt with." His critique of the coverage of September 11 is slim, mostly centering on already reported truisms about why many in the Muslim world sympathize in some way with Osama bin Laden. Some readers, however, will share his unease with the willingness on the part of the American government and the American people to put concerns for civil liberties on the back burner during the war on terrorism. Vidal's criticisms of McVeigh, with whom he struck up a correspondence and a relationship, is more detailed. In Vidal's view, it is unlikely that McVeigh was solely responsible for Oklahoma City, and he saw himself as a martyr for a libertarian cause that would rescue America. But in this book, the tone is as important as the text. Vidal gleefully skewers American capitalism and the role of the religious right in American politics at every opportunity. Critics of American policy and American life, as well as those prone to conspiracy theories, are likely to find a lot of fodder. Many will not be surprised that Vidal's views have not received a wider hearing a piece on McVeigh was rejected by Vanity Fair, another by the Nation but even at his most contrarian, Vidal's writing is powerful and graceful.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Vidal couldn't find an English-language publisher for the first essay in this collection, his response to September 11, until it became a best-seller in Italy. He argues that Osama bin Laden's attack on America pales in comparison to the government's attack on American civil liberties since September 11. Vidal views the unwinnable wars on terrorism and drugs as the government's excuse to implement a police state, which he repeatedly compares to Nazi Germany. With his trademark wit and imposing intellect, he attacks everything about the Bush administration's response to 9/11, from the president's characterization of terrorists as "evil" to the war in Afghanistan. The clever, thoughtful diatribe is sometimes overwhelmed by tangents (at one point, Vidal ridicules Barbara Bush as a George Washington look-alike, which hardly seems relevant), but the essay is compulsively readable. The remaining essays in this slim volume have been published before and address Timothy McVeigh and the bombing in Oklahoma City. In a surprisingly convincing argument that McVeigh might not have been behind the bombing, Vidal weaves conspiracies from the Opus Dei order of the Catholic Church to Waco. These essays are held together by Vidal's belief that we must take the McVeighs and the bin Ladens of the world seriously and not dismiss their actions as simply "evil." Vidal fans will find everything they love here: these essays are witty, often convincing, and pull no punches. John GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved