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A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... 25 July 1978 (Tuesday). Dinner at George’s, where Gore Vidal showed up about nine and sat down in a curious hugging crouch in order to hide the fact he has grown fat since the last time we saw him. Otherwise he seems the same in every particular – intelligent, funny and malign in about equal proportion. He lamented the fact no one keeps diaries anymore, implying that all the awful, fascinating detail of life is going to be lost ...

Last Days of the American Empire

Philip Towle, 19 May 1988

Armageddon? Essays 1983-1987 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 244 pp., £11.95, November 1987, 9780233981567
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Empire 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 587 pp., £11.95, November 1987, 0 233 98152 7
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The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 
by Paul Kennedy.
Unwin Hyman, 677 pp., £18.95, March 1988, 0 04 909019 4
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... living in Europe and the British historian living in America are in broad agreement. According to Gore Vidal, the American Empire died in September 1985 when the country became a debtor, because ‘like most modern empires, ours rested not so much on military prowess as on economic primacy.’ The last chapters of Paul Kennedy’s epic study ...

Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal, 3 February 2000

Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... prefer my subjects dead,’ Fred Kaplan confesses in the prelude to his ambitious biography of Gore Vidal. Kaplan, a professor of English in New York whose taxidermies include Henry James, Dickens and Carlyle (they hardly get deader than Carlyle), understands that it’s much easier to get the paperwork done if you don’t have the ...

Royal Americans

D.A.N. Jones, 4 October 1984

Lincoln 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 657 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 434 83077 1
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Stars and Bars 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £8.50, September 1984, 0 241 11343 1
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... fame by killing heroes and idols. In this urgent manner, blending the legendary and the humdrum, Gore Vidal introduces his story, like a 20th-century version of a Greek tragedy about a doomed prince, a king who must be killed. It is like a Greek tragedy partly because we already know how Lincoln was to die: the style is 20th-century partly ...

President Gore

Inigo Thomas: Gore Vidal, 10 May 2007

Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964-2006 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 316 02727 8
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... A decade ago, I went to lunch with Gore Vidal at his house in Ravello. That house (since abandoned) and that sort of occasion have been written about so often by Vidal’s guests and interviewers, and by Vidal himself, that there is little to say that hasn’t been said ...

The Triumph of Plunder

James Morone: Gore Vidal on the venal history of America, 23 September 2004

Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson 
by Gore Vidal.
Yale, 198 pp., £8.99, September 2004, 0 300 10592 4
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... as conservatives have in the past decade – only to announce loudly that things were never worse. Gore Vidal aims to steal the form away from the right. Inventing a Nation borrows its essential narrative from Benjamin Franklin’s dark benediction over the newly written constitution. That, too, was a parlous moment for American liberty. Eleven ...

Patriotic Gore

Michael Wood, 19 May 1983

Duluth 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 434 83076 3
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Pink Triangle and Yellow Star and Other Essays 1976-1982 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 278 pp., £10, July 1982, 0 434 83075 5
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... another, leaving the Dallas of Lee Harvey Oswald, say, for that of J.R. Or so it is suggested in Gore Vidal’s joky novel Duluth, where characters die in one imagined work only to pop up in another. They are just words, you see, easily reassembled. ‘We do not live. We are interchangeable. We go on, and we go on. From narrative to ...

Just what are those teeth for?

Ian Hamilton, 24 April 1997

... I do not come to Lilliputia with a measuring stick.’ This was Gore Vidal, a week or two ago, when asked to say which of our two main parties was the more right-wing. The British election, in Gore’s lofty view, is ‘parish-pump politics’, a juvenile charade compared to America’s great billion-dollar circuses ...

Likeable People

John Sutherland, 15 May 1980

Book Society 
by Graham Watson.
Deutsch, 164 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 233 97160 2
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The Publishers Association Annual Report 1979-80 
73 pp.Show More
Private Presses and Publishing in England since 1945 
by H.E. Bellamy.
Clive Bingley, 168 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 85157 297 9
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... adulation of the literary groupy with remembered episodes of quite stunning inconsequence: Gore [Vidal] is one of the most engaging men I have known. He frightens me to death. I have only met one other who combined his startling good looks with his massive creative intelligence and devastating wit, and that was Noel ...

After-Time

Christopher Hitchens, 19 October 1995

Palimpsest: A Memoir 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 432 pp., £17.99, October 1995, 0 233 98891 2
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... I recently paid a solemn and respectful visit to Gore Vidal’s grave. It is to be found in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington. You take a few paces down the slope from the graveyard’s centrepiece, which is the lachrymose and androgynous Mourning Figure sculpted by August St Guldens for Henry Adams’s unhappy wife Clover (whose name always puts me in mind of an overworked pit pony ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley, 5 January 1989

Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... 31 years old, severe, distant, possibly beautiful. On the very last page is a small shot of Gore Vidal, who at the preposterous age of 21 is the author of two novels. Vidal looks directly into the camera, sullen and contentious. John Chamberlain, who wrote the text, declares Stafford the ‘most brilliant’ of ...

Styling

John Lanchester, 21 October 1993

United States 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 1298 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 233 98832 7
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What Henry James Knew, and Other Essays on Writers 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Cape, 363 pp., £12.99, June 1993, 0 224 03329 8
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Sentimental Journeys 
by Joan Didion.
HarperCollins, 319 pp., £15, January 1993, 0 00 255146 2
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... que sais-je? but simply to strut their stuff. Hardly anybody has done that to better effect than Gore Vidal, whose essays are unmistakably a performance – more of a self-celebration than a self-interrogation, and none the worse for that. United States is a fat volume which gathers within its pages all (as far as I can tell) of the essays that ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Candidates for the 2000 Presidency, 6 January 2000

... and nothing to write about. A day or so passed, in this city of sinister charm (once described by Gore Vidal as ‘the Vatican of the John Birch Society’), in an agony of boredom and irrelevance. And then the ABC News Nightline team, the flagship of supposedly serious coverage, announced that it was vacating its skybox and leaving town. No story. Thus ...

I want my wings

Andrew O’Hagan: The Last Tycoons, 3 March 2016

West of Eden: An American Place 
by Jean Stein.
Cape, 334 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 224 10246 9
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... the chauffeurs, the studio wives, the bit-part players, to the Arthur Miller, Dennis Hopper and Gore Vidal part of the universe, and none of them lets her down, or lets her off. It is a wild compendium of stories about what it is to be a child in a world of childish adults, and her book feels political, a meditation on the moral consequences of being ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly, 9 August 2001

... novel, said he couldn’t ‘write “Bum” on a wall’. At least Norman Mailer did head-butt Gore Vidal. Anyway, two hours with the Yellow Dragons is all it takes, and that’s offered at the knock-down price of £10 (two-thirds off): ‘It’s not worth putting yourself … at risk for that small amount of money.’ We have been warned. Tynan ...

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