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.
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Published January 19, 1999
by Random House.
Literature & Fiction.