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Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir Hardcover – November 7, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It would be too easy to say Vidal's second memoir picks up where Palimpsest left off; as in that earlier book, he essentially lets his memories flow at will, often revisiting yet again the stories of his Washington childhood. The general focus, however, is on the latter half of his life, particularly the deaths of those closest to him, including his longtime companion, Howard Auster. Yet Vidal changes subjects and tone so frequently and abruptly—here tender, here combative—that the family memories and celebrity anecdotes become scattershot, limping to a close with a bizarre summary of somebody else's theory about how organized crime bosses ordered the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Assured of his own genius ("I have never needed an editor"), he repeatedly slams biographer Fred Kaplan as "dull" and sex-obsessed, then jabs at a few other people who've written about him. He also makes frequent observations about the current events unfolding as he writes, and his criticisms of the New York Times and the Bush administration's "oil-and-gas junta" will come as no surprise. In short, the memoir is a perfect encapsulation of Vidal's outsized personality—and readers' reactions will be determined by how they already feel about him. (Nov. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

One of America's most distinguished writers recalls, once again, following his previous glance backward in Palimpsest (1995), even more events in his inarguably interesting life. Vidal's new volume of self-revelation free-ranges over his more than eight decades as he eschews a particularly strict time line. Chapters are short, like brief scenes in a movie; indeed, cinema is the book's recurring, binding metaphor. Movies he has seen are discussed, and movies he has written for are also part of his discussion; but also, as any reader knows who has read the latter volumes in his American Chronicles cycle of historical novels, he is ever conscious of the cinema as a significant cultural and political force. Sprinkled throughout the narrative are signs of his liberal politics (for instance, when he posits "the criminalizing of drugs and sex is very much a sign of that malign primitivism which has always reigned in Freedom's Land"). Certainly one of the best treats of the book is that Vidal has known many famous people, whom he mentions with a genuine interest in sharing what about them interested him. And Vidal always can be appreciated for his beautiful prose style alone. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (November 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385517211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385517218
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gore Vidal has received the National Book Award, written numerous novels, short stories, plays and essays. He has been a political activist and as Democratic candidate for Congress from upstate New York, he received the most votes of any Democrat in a half-century.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 132 people found the following review helpful By EJG on November 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Point to Point Navigation is best described as a stream of consciousness. Reflections, observations, and reminisces, not in any chronological order necessarily, but as one thought leads to another Vidal recollects interesting as well as poignant memories from throughout his life. Filled with Vidal's wit and observations, one comes away from the book with a sense of what it must be like to sit down with this renowned author simply for a talk together.

Aptly titled, "Point to Point Navigation" refers to the dangerous navigation Vidal had to use during World War Two when as first mate on an army freight-supply ship they had to maneuver without compass (inoperable due to weather) but rather by memorized landmarks and without radar, a process which the writing of this memoir made him feel as if he "were again dealing with those capes and rocks in the Bering Sea," for the memoir presents a nonlinear reflection of a life whose course and recollection thereof has twist and turns but which remained on course.

Vidal is one of America's finest biographers: author of twenty-five novels including his fascinating informative Narratives of Empire series, six plays, many screenplays, and more than two hundred essays. He is an esteemed political commentator who has expertly utilized rationality and erudite humor regarding topics such as sex, religion, politics, literature, and history of empire.

I have loved the man's works since I was a teenager, from his essays and earliest novels to his more recent pamphlets regarding American imperialism, his words have educated, enlightened, and given me much to ponder. When I consider Vidal, I think of knowledge combined with unrestrained candor, and this is what makes Vidal a pleasure to read.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Izaak VanGaalen on December 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If name dropping bothers you, you will not want to read this book, for most of the author's best friends belong to the Who's Who of the 20th century. And if egotism and self-glorification annoy, you will have even more reason not to open this book. But then let's be open-minded, in memoirs the Self always plays the starring role, and in Gore Vidal's case, he always shines and often outshines some of the 20th century's most interesting characters.

Vidals list of friends and acquaintances include Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Anais Nin, Johnny Carson, Rudolph Nureyev, Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Newman, Orson Welles, Saul Bellow, JFK, Princess Grace, Princess Margaret, Amelia Earhart, Greta Garbo, Federico Fellini...just to name a few. One notices that most of these people are no longer among the living and Vidal, now 82 and in failing health, is pondering his own journey "toward the door marked Exit."

There is no continuous narrative in this book. The stories jump from the Hudson Valley to the Hollywood Hills to Ravello and back again. It zooms back and forth in time as well with 30 and 50 year jumps, so the metaphor of point to point navigation is apt. I have read only a few of Vidal's novels (Kalki, Messiah, Myra Breckenridge, Creation) but I have read, I think, most of his essays. Some critics predict that Vidal's American chronicle series of novels are his best work (I couldn't finish them.) but I believe that his essays will be his lasting legacy.

Vidal's essays are always witty, observant, and his prose is always a precision instrument. He often repeats himself, especially in this book. He recognizes that his memory is failing and wonders out loud whether he has already told some these anecdotes. But the telling is always entertaining.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"No other writer has peered so intently under the hood of American Society. None can match his uncanny gift for "telling us what we want to know' about public life, including politics, theatre and the movies. Three worlds he has noted where 'no one is under oath'. But this author kept one subject under cover: himself. His new book is a sad, spotty chronicle that would suggest Gore is stuck in a fog from a dwindling set of landmarks. Vidal's' imagination has always been able to get into the past. With his first memoir, Palimpsest, Vidal finally took the witness stand." James Marcus

None of us know much about Gore Vidal, he likes it that way. His two memoirs have finally put sight on himself, and the people he liked and those he loved. Gore's wit could cut someone, usually politicians, to the core without them even realizing they had a sliver. However, with his contemporaries, authors,per say, he is even tempered and respectful. His stories about Tennessee Williams, whom he adored, but wrote about with sarcasm and satire are ones to savor. As are his stories about and with Johnny Carson. Carson and Gore liked each other and when Gore appeared on 'The Tonight' show, that was what television was all about. There are witty remembrances of Paul Bowles, Federico Fellini, Amelia Earhart, and Jackie Onassis. Gore Vidal's father had a 'fling' with Amelia Earhart and this inside is a story in itself. And, the stories of Saul Bellow, 'a man of Bentha glimpsed checking out some sexy nuns with Albetto Moravia.' Of course, the fact that Gore Vidal had entrance to the Camelot known as the Kennedy Administration, was his forte. He and the Kennedy's had spats, but one of the final chapters in this memoir is about Kennedy and his death and this portrayal has credence.
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