Gore Vidal: A Biography
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Novelist, cultural critic, essayist, historian, comic satirist, image maker, provocateur, actor, homosexual, bisexual...controversial, brilliant, confrontational, unflinching, cynical, idealistic...finding words to describe Gore Vidal is never difficult. And yet, an accurate picture of this multifaceted chameleon has eluded us until now. Here, at last, is a vastly entertaining biography of an American icon.
From his Washington childhood, a world of high political and social connections and domestic turmoil, to his Exeter education and U.S. Army experiences; from his Hollywood and television career to his literary life as a novelist, playwright, and essayist; from his friendships and feuds with Tennessee Williams, Anaïs Nin, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and William Buckley to his exploration of homosexuality and celebration of bisexuality; from his cool satirical analyses of "the rich, the famous and the powerful" to his projection of himself onto the national stage of television talk shows and political ambition, Gore Vidal has been both participant in and spectator at the centers of American power. No other twentieth-century figure has moved so easily and confidently, and had such a profound effect, in the disparate worlds of literature, drama, film, politics, historical debate, and the culture wars.
Fred Kaplan enjoyed complete access to Vidal's papers, letters, and private photographs, as well as television and newsreel footage, but was guaranteed a free hand by Vidal to write as he saw fit. The result is a lively, witty, and textured life of a literary colossus.
concentrated writing. But his focus on the novel was partly undermined by his increasingly revived interest in doing something political, both in literature and in life, though soon the two could not be separated. With something political in mind, he soon revived discussions of a television drama based on episodes in the early life of his grandfather, which Manulis had encouraged years before. The possibility of a brief, in fact singular, revival of his career as a television dramatist he found
Edgewater, Gore had happily become her “dear Gauze,” a familiarity that encompassed a mixture of infatuation and love. Both accepted it as simply their ongoing enjoyment of one another. It involved pleasure, fun, help, a substantial correspondence when apart. Gore gave her much good advice about a play she had been writing, soon to be produced in London. One night at Edgewater, both drunk, they had gone to bed together. Now, at a particularly tense time in her life, she was delighted to be
would preempt any damage reviews might do. To Fred Dupee, for whom bestsellerdom was suspect, he wrote that “it is really very extraordinary and will save me from becoming a Mary [McCarthy] novelist bestseller-fate. I seem to have spent my life in getting into categories which, with some ingenuity, I get out of.” Of course, both Little, Brown and Myra’s author preferred that it sell every bit as well as Julian and Washington, D.C. With Dupee he promoted a consanguinity of literary sensibilities.
funny how my opinion on Vidal has changed. 1st practically worship. Second practically hatred. And now I almost think he’s pathetic. He even asked me to type another of his stories (for which I waste a lot of time and get nothing). In the middle of it, he said ‘You’ll be able to write an essay on Vidal’s style some day.’ What colossal conceit. And acting as if I were a very lucky guy to be able to type out one of his rather poor stories. I was generating hatred all the time I was writing it.” At
aloof, his highest interest was in reading and in literary culture. When Gore told him how profoundly his “early adolescent self” had been affected by his novels, “he found this amusing: ‘How sensitive you must have been!’ And the pirate laugh would roar.” The meeting was preface to a long, intermittent friendship. With Gore’s own book-in-progress substantially under way but not completely done, the accidental meeting on the beach at East Hampton with a writer whose novels he read and admired