- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (October 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810950499
- ISBN-13: 978-0810950498
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 10.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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Vidal says in the preface: "During the fifty-four years that Howard Russell Auster and I shared a life, he took a great many photographs...to eventually mak(e) his own book. Upon his death...he left me his photographs and papers...(A)s a memorial to him, I am now publishing them, with more notes describing the various occasions that we took part in, as well as a number of pictures from my life and times, now becoming, with time's passage, literally historic."
All the text is written by Vidal in his polished style, and kept succinct so we can see all 360 pictures, black & white and full color, before closing time. He begins with the maternal family album headed by his grandfather, blind Senator Gore, and spiced by Gore's mother-to-be, Nina. Pass on to his handsome aviator dad, who served under FDR. There are no baby pictures, and we first see Gore at 3 or 4. Apparently he was blondish in his youth, went to name schools, and at 18 with WWII upon us, went into the army. While in the hospital for a knee injury, he began Williwaw, his first published novel (1946).
Free to roam at last, he has snapshots with dancers John Kriza and Harold Lang, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams, Truan Capote, Tanaquil Le Clerq. He meets Howard Auster of Jewish lineage, who respells it Austen as he seeks work. Howard and Gore click for the next half century.
The pair go to Hollywood: Ben Hur and so on. Gore quickly sours on the movie industry, but meets the Paul Newmans, who are often subjects in the photos thereafter. Veering into politics, Gore joins in photos with John Kennedy. He then turns to Broadway: Cyril Ritchard in Visit to a Small Planet, Melvin Douglas in The Best Man.
He always dresses well, and has the same high standard for his houses, photographed inside and out in beautiful color.
His TV confrontations with Buckley and Mailer are captured, as well as his war of words with Capote.
Transferring to the beautiful landscapes of the Amalfi Coast, Gore and Howard could relax, and enjoy the company of Princess Margaret, Leonard Bernstein, Michael York, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol (who made some blurry Polaroids and signed them W for Gore), Johnny Carson, Tim and Susan Robbins and kids.
When Howard's health was fading fast, the pair had to return to the States, to Gore's Hollywood Hills home, bringing the cat of course.
The last page of photos shows the gateway to Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC, the cloaked head of Grief, and the polished stone over the grave of Howard Auster already incised "GORE VIDAL 1925-".
My favorite photos, both by Annie Leibovitz: On page 233, full color, Vidal turns thoughtfully aside from the dictionary, opened to the "vodka" entry where there is a small pic of a bottle of Absolut. It's an ad. On pages 248-249, black & white, Vidal in black attire lies on the wide bed, his legs crossed. Annie is half off the bed, her face covered by her camera pointed at the mirror on the ceiling. Hair fanned out on the pillow, Vidal looks seriously right at you, not at all "plainly dead" as the text says.
All this and more are in this bright ingratiating book, sweepingly entertaining and priced right.
FOOTNOTES (regrettably not in 6-point type)
1 Inasmuch as Vidal personally selected the 360 photos etc. from his voluminous archive, he never appears in deshabille except tasteful swim trunks. Nor is anyone else embarrassed by his choices.
2 On pages 74-75, writer Donald Windham in the photo is not idenified in the text. Is this a snub?
3 On page 204, Claire Bloom's companion is identified as husband Rod Steiger, but I doubt it. Somebody help.
4 Many letters and clippings are shown, quite legible. But NO manuscript pages are exhibited.
5 Six spreads are devoted to Vidal's book covers.
6 Two pages of Image Credits appear at the end of the book (not in any kind of order); seemingly this spares the publisher from adding a credit tail to every photo in the body of the book. Two-page Index. The Staff and Copyright are on the very last book page. Boy, that Vidal really has clout!
this interesting man. This is a must for those of us who have admired Mr. Vidal for many years;for those of us
who admire and perhaps agree with Mr. Vidal's political viewpoints on many matters,and people,over the many
years of his long,and frequently public life.
I first heard Mr. Vidal speak in June,1960,while he was a young man running for congress in upstate NY. I remember
him then,as now,as a man with a razor-sharp mind,and insight,into many matters,and people.
Mr. Vidal has led such a full life,and befriended so many famous personalities over his long life,that to have such a collection of photos attesting to this is most interesting.
Anyone with even a passing interest in Gore Vidal should buy this book. To the uninitiated,if you read it,you may
find yourself reading more of his work,and viewing him speaking on the internet.
In Palimpsest Vidal is surprised that so many focus on his handsomness. Why is it however that he had meteoric success when there are unknown people like him at every major university? Part of it was his connections both that he was born into and was able to make, part of it that he published his first best seller The City and the Pillar at just the right time, part of it was that he got into TV when it was still wide open and many other writers were still suspicious of or disliked the medium (and because he was so handsome and acerbicsally witty which intelligent people generally find entertaining he actually got on TV to talk very quickly) but a lot of his success was due to his appearance. This book is eye candy. Boy am I envious!
The (mash) "notes" he prints from his companion of over 50 years Howard Auter are very touching. Although I am sure the relationship became non sexual after a couple of years --this is true with many gay relationships (lesbians call it bed death) I cannot believe what he used to say that they only had sex one time--I don't think Howard would have tolerated it, at least not in the beginning! Gore may have said that either not to embarrass Howard's family or to maintain his image as the hardened rationalist. Like Clyde Tolson with J. Edgar Hoover (although I am sure that Gore would be offended by the analogy) or Graham Payne with Noel Coward Auter was wise enough to know that to maintain the relationship he had to tip toe around Gore's ego and not create any real professional rivalry or real success even in another field like advertising or singing. Fortunately since at Auter obviously adored Gore he seemed to be contented to just be the wind beneath Gore's wings and kept quiet about it too. It was only at the very end of his life that Gore even hinted publically that Auter was his full time business manager,possibly because Gore did not recognize maybe until Auter got very sick the full extent of his dependency on him