Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.98 shipping
Selected Essays of Gore Vidal (Vintage International) Paperback – June 16, 2009
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Top international reviews
Vidal's great offence was, of course, to blow the gaff, to commit la trahison des clercs. He compounded his crime by coming from a privileged background but nevertheless turning his very considerable gifts to the task of savaging his own patrician class, the wealthy and the politically powerful, for their self-serving lies, obfuscations, and hypocrisies. As this collection of essays amply confirms, he trenchantly exposed the institutionally (and constitutionally) corrupt nature of US politics, dominated as he put it by a single Property Party which has two right wings, the Democrats and the Republicans. It has also, as he points out and amply documents, created since 1945 a state of permanent war and grievously undermined civil liberties, all in the name of securing perpetual peace but actually so as to ensure that the tax dollars of the middle and working classes constantly flow, via the multifarious "defence" industries and their offshoots, into the bank accounts of a bloatedly rich, barely taxpaying elite. This grand larceny is corruption on the epic scale of the later Roman empire, so it is piquant as well as our good fortune that Vidal brought the élan, erudition and rhetorical skills of a classical satirist to the task of skewering it.
His essays are consistently engaging because they appeal on such a variety of levels. His strictures on US politics frequently resonate with our own, which are similarly intended at all costs to keep wealth and power in the hands of the elite, and similarly serviced by overwhelmingly conformist media and political party systems. Incidental observations on US life and culture are frequent, as when he points out that "the middle-class American is taxed as though he lived in a socialist society" (but without enjoying a free health service), or suggests that the ruling class "may regard sex as our bread and circuses, a means of keeping us off the political streets, in bed and out of mischief".
I enjoyed Vidal's devastating bon mots (of a passage by Herman Wouk he observes "This is not at all bad, except as prose") and the literary jokes and references: for example when he channels Dickens in telling us that the novelist Grace Paley could "do the ethnics in different voices", and invokes Hopkins' poem to the young child Margaret to underline the pathos of Edmund Wilson's recurrent dreams that his dead wife Margaret might yet return to life, thus overcoming "the blight man was born for". Sometimes the American language (bohunk?) and references (Florsheim?) defeated me, but Google is a great resource in such cases, and such incidental difficulties are soon redeemed by the next joke, as when he observes that "the American male loves guns...you can always get your revolver up".
Whether Vidal is expertly demythologising the Kennedy clan or dispatching (while acknowledging redeeming qualities in) work by the likes of John Updike and Donald Barthelme, he brings admirably wide learning, historical flair, verbal grace and wit to bear, so that to read an essay of his even on remote figures like William Dean Howells and Daniel Shays is as informative, entertaining and challenging as a liberal education should be. All in all, this was a very enjoyable, profitable and stimulating read, and my only criticism of the volume is that an index would have been helpful.