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The City and the Pillar: A Novel Paperback – December 2, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (December 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030374
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030378
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An artistic achievement.” —The Washington Post

“One of the best novels of its kind. . . . It isn’t sentimental, and it is frank without trying to be sensational and shocking.” —Christopher Isherwood

“A brilliant exposé of subterranean life.” —The Atlantic Monthly

“Frank, shocking . . . extremely sympathetic, penetrating and exhortive.” —New York Herald Tribune

From the Inside Flap

A literary cause célèbre when first published more than fifty years ago, Gore Vidal?s now-classic The City and the Pillar stands as a landmark novel of the gay experience.

Jim, a handsome, all-American athlete, has always been shy around girls. But when he and his best friend, Bob, partake in ?awful kid stuff,? the experience forms Jim?s ideal of spiritual completion. Defying his parents? expectations, Jim strikes out on his own, hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship. Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men. Upon finally encountering Bob years later, the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax. The first novel of its kind to appear on the American literary landscape, The City and the Pillar remains a forthright and uncompromising portrayal of sexual relationships between men.

Customer Reviews

Gore Vidal was such a daring writer.
Raphael Venegas
It's a remarkable book that discusses homosexuality in a very open way for a novel from 1945.
And the ending was tragic and very abrupt; left me hanging.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Drake-by-the-Lake on March 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Maybe it is because I was denied reading "The City and the Pillar" for fifteen years, but I really enjoyed this. I fully appeciated the era in which the book was written and the consequences suffered by Vidal, who had to give up novel-writing for a decade after the publication of novel, which portrayed The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name. This was considered rank heresy at the time.

After discovering Gore Vidal's books in college (on my own, without the recommendation of professors), I learned that he wrote "The City and the Pillar." Having no idea then what it was about, I asked an English professor, who remembered it being about homosexuals, and advised against my bothering with it, since it would be a bad influence. Of course, this whet my appetite.

Next, I searched for this book in the campus library, unsuccessfully. Then I visited the local city library--nada. Then I searched in other college libraries...in bookstores...other city libraries... you get the drift. It became clear to me this book was Entirely Disapproved Of and Censored.

Over a decade later, with the advent of Amazon, I finally found a copy for sale and eagerly ordered it. I was not in the slightest disappointed, even though I am not unaware of its defects, as listed by reviewer "GFT", whose review I marked Helpful. Obviously, Jim, an athlete of average intelligence, is not the most interesting character to grace the pages of fiction. But Jim does not have to be. Personally, I did not care about any of the characters in the novel! Jim is merely the vehicle through which we examine, deplore, and admonish the American homosexual underground of the 1940s. This book is a time machine to another era, much like Vidal's other works.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 18, 1996
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While reading this apparent classic, first published years
ago, I was surprised, because it seemed so contemporary.
Apparently this novelette was one of the first to deal with
homosexuality in 'normal', untainted youths. In any case,
I liked the spare prose, which suggested
a documentary, which both suited and clarified the central
character of Jim. The images that the book invokes are
clean-edged, there is very little that is extravagant des-
cription. The basic story is of Jim and Bob, two youths
that find passion on the last day of Bob's last year of
high school. Jim is changed by this experience, and the
rest of the novel details his search for Bob, or for the
sort of wholeness being with Bob gave him. Ultimately, the
journey ends tragically, after Jim has experienced a number
of relationships, but while he is still in his early 20s.
I found the tone of the novel to be bleak, a numbed journey
from hope and optimism into nihilism at the end. Because
of the very simplicity of the story, I didn't think it made
much impression on me while reading. However, I now find
myself continually thinking of Jim and his life and it seems
the story has indeed got to me. I can't describe what it
is, but the tale has left me empty and feeling a
great deal of pity and empathy for Jim and what will happen
to him afterwards. There are some glorious moments in the
book, and the multitude of personalities in the gay world
that Vidal illustrates are varied and non-stereotypical,
surprising for a book written before supposedly
'enlightened' times. I recommend this book, as it is
a fascinating read, one thatcontinues to haunt the reader
long after the conclusion.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on March 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Certainly, as other reviews have pointed out, 'The City and the Pillar' is notable because of its social significance; it was published in 1948 -- a time when homosexuality was still relegated to the fringes of society, so the last place you would expect to see it is in a novel. Gore Vidal put homosexual life out there for everyone to see, and if the picture that he paints isn't a pretty one consider that life for a gay man in that time period wasn't exactly peaches and cream. To start with, Vidal's portrayal of his protagonist, Jim Willard, is mightily restrained. There is a distance between Jim and the reader that at first seems cold, but is somewhat fitting when one considers that there is a distance between Jim's wants and needs that he is completely unable to reconcile. He's not warm and cuddly because he just doesn't understand who he is, and while he delves into the gay society of the time he can't help but mock it because he doesn't want to think of himself as part of it. Jim is constantly trying to rationalize his sexual behavior so that he won't have to believe that he is like the other gay men he meets. If he could bring himself to have a straight relationship he would -- as evinced by his continued friendship with Maria Verlaine. But Jim isn't straight, and putting on airs only makes him dislike himself even more. One could wish that Vidal had put a more humanized, relatable character at the forefront of his novel, but it just wouldn't have been so honest -- which Vidal undoubtedly understood, being a gay man living at the time.

Vidal, in addition to putting homosexuality into mainstream consciousness, acknowledged the stereotypes that have been attributed to gay men whilst taking a sledge-hammer to them at the same time.
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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.

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The City and the Pillar: A Novel
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