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The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal Hardcover – June 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524841
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Vidal's daunting career has encompassed 24 novels, 11 essay collections, six plays, two memoirs and countless occasional writings. This new collection is an entry point into this literary giant's work for a new generation of readers, offering some of Vidal's most famous and entertaining essays from the past 50-odd years. Compiled and introduced by Parini (The Last Station), Vidal's literary executor, the pieces range across Vidal's far-flung areas of expertise, resting most frequently and contentiously on literature and presidential politics of the past and present. His assessment of The Top Ten Bestsellers of January 7, 1973, is a savagely meticulous dissection of middlebrow American taste, while American Plastic tacks in the opposite direction, skewering the academy-approved, theory-based fiction of Donald Barthelme and William Gass with derisive glee. Vidal's comfort in puncturing conventional wisdom with his wit and analysis is fully displayed throughout, most notably in his discussion of the battle over the Kennedy legacy in The Holy Family and the controversial Black Tuesday, which condemns the Bush administration for its alleged imperial ambitions in the wake of September 11. (June 17)
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Review

"In 114 essays written over a period of forty years, Gore Vidal has shown himself to be a masterly, learned, and percipient observer of an unparalleled range of subjects. United States: Essays, 1952–1992 assesses such diverse matters as modern French fiction, the Kennedys, underappreciated writers like Thomas Love Peacock, and the American attitude toward sex. He writes tenderly of authors and people he cherishes—Eleanor Roosevelt, Tennessee Williams, William Dean Howells. Whatever his subject, he addresses it with an artist's resonant appreciation, a scholar's conscience, and the persuasive powers of a great essayist."—Citation for the 1993 National Book Award

“Vidal is the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson.” —Newsweek

“Gore Vidal, essayist; so good that we cannot do without him. He is a treasure of the state.”—R.W.B. Lewis, New York Times Book Review

“Gore Vidal is the master essayist of our age, and we should thank the gods that we still have him to kick us around. Long may he flourish.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

“The century’s finest essayist.”—Jonathan Keates, The Spectator

“Indispensable . . . An excellent read . . . Provocateur, scholar, historian, novelist, scoundrel, whatever you want to call Gore Vidal, make sure you include ‘national treasure’ . . . [He] is an original mind, who thinks and sees without regard to convention. That alone makes him required reading.” —Sunday Oregonian

“Vidal has always had title to being among the most fluently entertaining of American essayists. I think it can now be seen that he is among the most substantial . . . There is often room to disagree with Vidal. But there is no room at all for denying that he is a superlative essayist, whose elegant concision is a gage thrown down to everyone else in the field.”—Clive James, The Observer


“Some of the most courageous, liveliest, and wittiest commentary on literature, the theater and social life that has been written in America.”—Philip Rahv

“The American tradition of independent and curious learning is kept alive in the wit and great expressiveness of Gore Vidal’s criticism.”—National Book Critics Circle for The Second American Revolution

“Gore Vidal is that rare thing, a wit who thinks in paragraphs.” —Kenneth Tynan

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

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Best Of All on June 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It all comes down to what you want and what you have read.

For those who are exploring the vast depth of essays penned by Gore Vidal, this volume - edited by Jay Parini - is a nice primer.

But 21 of the 24 selections appeared in the 1993 Random House collection, United States: Essays 1952-1992, with a pair of recent political essays - Black Tuesday (2001) and State of the Union, 2004 (2004) - easily found in other settings.

Ultimately, this is a very puzzling release and what appears to be a slick means to reissue what Parini feels is the best material from a massive volume - 114 pieces - published 15 years ago.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Blank on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I knew Mr. Vidal was a erudite, witty and entertaining writer having read many of his historical novels, and this collection confirms that. The downfall is that many of the authors, works, and subjects under discussion are from so long ago that much of the context is lost and with it the significance of the writing. For, instance, there are two long articles about the French New Novel, the hip thing from the 50's and 60's. I happen to have read several novels by one of the authors being addressed, so had some inkling of what is going on, but for most readers it would be a thicket filled with unknown names and criticism aimed at a mysterious target. So beware - if you buy the book, you'll end up skipping parts of it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Harlen on September 14, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As may be expected somewhat uneven essays by Gore spanning decades . He is always entertaining and frequently quite erudite but he is much too harsh on John Updike and the Kennedys. Here's hoping he lives on for many more years and books.
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By respirateur DuChamp on July 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
all those potatoes and not much meat. i'm a vidal fan, but this was re-cooked. reads like publisher's attempt to make money on essays which are better for gore's archives.
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By Rado on December 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Laconic. Brilliant. Incisive. Prescient. Timeless. Inspirational. Too bad he is no longer with us. Please read ASAP. Before the end times happens.
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