“The four most beautiful words in our common language: ‘I told you so.’ ” —Gore Vidal
“I exist to say, ‘No, that isn’t the way it is,’ or ‘What you believe to be true is not true for the following reasons.’ I am a master of the obvious. I mean, if there’s a hole in the road, I will, viciously, outrageously, say there’s a hole in the road and if you don’t fill it in you’ll break the axle of your car. One is not loved for being helpful.”–Gore Vidal.
Gore Vidal, who died at the end of July 2012, is widely acknowledged as one of America’s foremost novelists, essayists and screenwriters. But Vidal was also a terrific conversationalist; indeed Dick Cavett once described him as “the best talker since Oscar Wilde.” Vidal was never more eloquent, or caustic, when let loose on his favorite topic: the history and politics of the United States.
This book is made up from four interviews conducted with his long-time interlocutor, the writer and radio host Jon Wiener, in which Vidal grapples with matters close to his heart: the history of the American Empire, the rise of the National Security State, and his own life in politics, both as a commentator and candidate.
The interviews cover a twenty-year span, from 1988 to 2008, when Vidal was at the height of his powers. His extraordinary facility for developing an argument, tracing connections between past and present, and drawing on an encyclopedic knowledge of America’s place in the world, are all on full display. And, of course, it being Gore Vidal, an ample sprinkling of gloriously acerbic one-liners is also provided.
Gore Vidal was the author of numerous novels, short stories, plays, screenplays and essays. A winner of the National Book Award, he was also a tireless political activist and, running as Democratic candidate for Congress in upstate New York, received more votes for that district than any Democrat in a half-century.
Reviews and Excerpts:
Michael Kammen review in Los Angeles Review of Books, Nov. 6, 2012: “He loved gossip and retailed some of the best, even when it was cruel.”
“This Week’s Hot Read.” The Daily Beast, Dec. 3, 2012.
Harvard Magazine, “The College Pump,” Jan.-Feb., 2013.
The Telegraph (London), review by Martin Chilton, Nov. 19, 2012: “provocative, stimulating, humorous and sometimes petty.”
Publishers Weekly review, March 4, 2013: “Vidal remains piquantly opinionated.”
Kirkus Reviews review, March 1, 2013: “some provocative volleys.”
Counterpunch Review by Ron Jacobs, Nov. 4, 2012: “His sharp tongue is matched only by his perceptive abilities.”
History News Network review by Ron Briley, Oct. 21, 2012: “a witty and healthy irreverence for power.”
Boston Globe, review by Jan Gardner, Jan. 19, 2013: “eloquent and caustic.”
Booklist review by Mary Carroll, April 15, 2013: “Essential for libraries.”