Top critical review
Weight-Watcher food for Lefty brains
on March 29, 2016
History and movies, two of Gore Vidal’s stronger interests. What could go wrong with an excursion with Vidal on these topics? Um, quite a lot. The dust jacket gives a clue: this slim book originated as a series of lectures (“The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization”) at Harvard. For some reason, giving lectures seems to trigger a reflex of “Wing it!” in authors. The great number of still photographs would seem to point to some preparation, but so many of the photos are from the Vidal family albums, as to make research easy. The text is a mess of memory, “meta” references, and prejudices (against Franklin Roosevelt most prominently) loaded into a shotgun and fired at 92 hapless white pages. Linearity in narration? To hell with it! Start talking and when time’s up, you are done. The endless dropping of fashionable references e.g. the Japanese are going to buy American culture, a recurrent fear of the 880s and 90s, is tiresome, from 2016’s viewpoint. The best use of this book is to send it to Europe, hoping it gulls the Muslim hordes that are revising European futures, into thinking that this farrago of Lefty wishful thinking is the real America.