The Essential Gore Vidal by Gore Vidal
A Gore Vidal Reader

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Synopsis

The range and size of Gore Vidal's literary achievement is remarkable. He is a master of the historical novel, in which he has explored American history, ancient history, and the history of religion. He has developed his own style of science fiction combined with satire, and in the books he refers to as his "inventions" he writes cautionary tales about sex, politics, art, and philosophy. He is at once a contrarian, a wise man, and a romantic. He is also wickedly funny, and often outrageous. All of these qualities are evident in his essays, which deal with things about which he feels passionately.

He writes about other writers--Tennessee Williams, Henry James, Montaigne, Edmund Wilson--and about public life, and his own life, which has been complicated and rich. This collection (the only single volume that includes both Vidal's fiction and his essays) contains two complete long works--Myra Breckinridge, perhaps his most famous novel, and The Best Man, a play about the American presidency. There are selections from The City and the Pillar, his early, controversial novel about homosexual love, and excerpts from such later works as Julian, Duluth, and Live from Golgotha. Selections from the American history novels--Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, and Washington, D.C.--have been woven together to provide a continuous narrative. There are twenty-five essays here, on the many subjects that have engaged Vidal during his long career. The editor, Fred Kaplan, who is writing the first major biography of Vidal, has provided an introduction to the work as a whole as well as an introductory explanation of each selection. He has also prepared a biographical chronology and a bibliography.
 

About Gore Vidal

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Gore Vidal was born in 1925 at the United States Military Academy at West Point. His first novel, Williwaw, appeared in the spring of 1946, when he was nineteen years old and just out of the Army. Since then he has written twenty-two novels, five plays, many screenplays, short stories, well over two hundred essays, and a memoir.Fred Kaplan is Distinguished Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include Thomas Carlyle: A Biography; Charles Dickens: A Biography; and Henry James: The Imagination of a Genius.
 
Published January 19, 1999 by Random House. 988 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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It must seem no less galling than appropriate to Norman Mailer that not even a year after the appearance of his own bulky retrospective volume (The Time of Our Time) there arrives this bracing sampler of his formidable old enemy’s variegated prose wares: on display—in judiciously mixed proportion...

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Publishers Weekly

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Kaplan's dutiful selections show that Vidal's unique blend of erudition and wit is not well served by abbreviation, a limitation reinforced by Kaplan's laborious introductions, which help neither the reader nor Vidal (""Religion is another recurrent subject in Vidal's oeuvre"";

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