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United States Paperback – May 15, 2001


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Paperback, May 15, 2001
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1312 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway (May 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767908066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767908061
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,254,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This mammoth omnibus of 114 essays is vintage Vidal, a marvelous compendium of sharp wit and independent judgment that confirms his status as a man of letters. The prolific novelist/critic offers withering putdowns of the French "new novel," billionaire Howard Hughes and bestseller lists. He displays a reporter's hard nose for facts in travel pieces on Nasser's Egypt and Mongolia. He pens definitive portraits of H. L. Mencken, Oscar Wilde, Anthony Burgess, L. Frank Baum. He reminisces on his boyhood friendship with Amelia Earhart, who, we learn, was in love with Vidal's father, Eugene, FDR's director of commercial aviation. Mingling patrician impulses and egalitarian, subversive sentiments, Vidal takes unfashionable stances, as when he urges the legalization of drugs or ending military aid to the Middle East, including Israel. His sense of the United States as hub of an overextended empire informs pieces on "American sissy" Theodore Roosevelt, JFK, CIA spook E. Howard Hunt and the bloated military budget.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Vidal's National Book Award-winning volume comprises 114 essays. Vidal paints in broad strokes, and the pieces cover history and politics (Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy); sociology (feminism, the American Empire); American and world literature including figures such as Tennessee Williams, William Dean Howells, Norman Mailer, Henry James, Edmund Wilson, Anthony Burgess, Paul Bowles, and more; and of, course, the film industry.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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

I understand better the definition of an elitist after reading these essays.
Bruce Oksol
He would have been pleased, and considered it entirely proper, that the largest book in my library would be one of his.
J. Alan Bock
Vidal never spares the rod, and this collection represents the best years of his essay writing.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Niall Kennedy on April 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Despite (repeatedly) claiming a place as one of America's greatest novelists, perhaps it will be this collection of essays which survives Vidal the longest. Arranged in two roughly equal collections dealing with literary and with political matters, the pieces span forty years and a rapidly-changing American society. Some of the most interesting pieces are commentaries on the development of the USA from a 'backward, agrarian republic' to the modern-day imperial juggernaut, summed up in the phrase 'National Security State' in which Vidal alleges there remains no true democracy, merely a meaningless choice between politicians who act like television personalities and seek only to maintain the status quo in favour of the rich elite. Politically leftist, Vidal takes an uncompromising stance against artistic, sexual and political hypocrisy, satirising politicians, journalists, fellow authors and historical figures with glee. The literary pieces are remarkable not only for the broad span of writers with which Vidal is familiar, but also for his ability to sketch in a few pages the whole development of a writer's work. The overall sense left by these essays, however, is that of something unfulfilled - whether Vidal's failed political ambitions, the sense one gets that he did not receive the recognition he wanted for his writings, and the broader sense of regret at the loss of American 'innocence' under Truman. Be that as it may, they offer one of the most radical, uncompromising, sharp and indeed witty voices available in America today, and I would highly recommend them
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gordon R Cameron on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
...and a brilliant essayist, Vidal shines in this book. The breadth of his scholarship is astonishing, and his matter-of-fact, cynical, mildly humorous take on American life is always interesting. He explodes all manner of literary, political, and religious pretensions in these essays, and makes serious, salient criticisms of our government, particularly what he deems the "National Security State" of the past 50 years. Vidal must be one of the most erudite individuals in American letters, and his grasp of U.S. history is unparalleled. The only downside of reading these essays is that one may feel like an uneducated rube afterwards.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. A Newman VINE VOICE on January 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable collection of essays. They cover literature, politics and history and show Vidal at his best. My favorites include his examination of the Kennedy Family (entitled The Holy Family) which though dated still shows the importance of showmanship be it the construction of a religion or a political dynasty. Vidal also looks at General Grant and surveys the American scene. Another gem is his examination of the books on the New York Times Best Seller list in the early seventies and what they tell us about American tastes and the declining craft of the writen word (Vidal believes it to be largely cinematic). There really are too many topics to cover properly in only 1,000. All of the essays are stimulating and thought provoking whether one agrees with the ideas expressed or not. I urge anyone who enjoys reading well-written prose to get this fascinating volume and discover the joys within its covers.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By jade_nb on January 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gore Vidal possesses an immense erudition and a willingness to inflict it on anyone and everyone who doesn't measure up to his standards, with tremendously entertaining results. He is a pedant and a nitpicker who will not let be even the smallest things, and I would hate to be subjected to his merciless eye, but it's great to read about the people who have been.
I bought the book for its first section, which consists of essays on literary matters (quite a few of them concerning people of whom I had never heard before -- some of whom I have now started reading just because of the essays), figuring that I could at worst skip the politics (the idea of which bored me) and still have quite a collection of essays in my hands. As it turned out, though, once I had made my way through that section I was so hooked on Vidal's drily contemptuous writing that I couldn't help continuing. I'm glad I read on, because his views (many of them bolstered by first-hand experience with the issues about which he's writing) and ability clearly and convincingly to expound them are amazing. He has really changed my ideas about a few issues. (There are also a few issues on which I think he can say nothing but educated nonsense, but I didn't read the book to have my own opinions parroted back at me.) The essays are fascinating, educating and entertaining, and the collection is superb -- trumping (in quantity and quality) just about any other book of his essays available. The ``sequel'' to this collection, Last Empire, can be a bit repetitive and shrilly alarmist, but this one is fresh and insightful throughout (perhaps because he's talking about events from which I feel sufficiently detached to be open-minded?).
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Mc Coy on January 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
United States, the 1993 Winner of the National Book Award, it covers the years from 1952 until 1992. This book shows that Vidal is an authority/reliable source in many areas. He served in WWII and wrote his first novel while doing so. He comes form a political background; his grandfather, blind Senator T.P. Gore, brought him up. He is related to Eleanor Roosevelt and was friendly with JFK. He ran for Congress in New York in 1960 and came in second in the California democratic primary in 1982. Furthermore, his father served as director of the Bureau of Air Commerce under FDR, which gave him insight into the forming of airlines and access to Charles Lindberg. He wrote his first novel at the age of 20 and has subsequently written 23 other novels, most of them historical novels in which he did significant research to get the details just right. He has numerous interesting insights into the lives of other writers as well as being capable of writing compelling book chat. He has also written for TV and the movies, as a result knows a lot of famous Hollywood movers and shakers. His heroes (John Quincy Adams, FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Paul Bowles, Edmund Wilson, Charles Lindberg) and villains (Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, the CIA) are vividly drawn and expertly judged throughout.
I am hesitant to recommend this tome that weighs in at 1295 pages and is the size of a reference book, but does seem all but indispensable, because it has many excellent and interesting essays. It is divided into three sections: state of the art (literature), state of the union (politics), and state of being (personal responses to people and events, not to mention movies and children's books). Not a light book to take on the train, this tome took me the better part of a year to finish, but was well worth it.
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