Nobody can accuse Gore Vidal of having narrow interests. Theauthor of such diverse books as the historicalnovels Burr
, the transgendersatire Myra Breckinridge
, and the imaginative religious epic Creation
has one of the busiest—and most eclectic—intellects in literature today. A prolific novelist, Vidalhas also enjoyed a career as playwright, essayist, and politicalcommentator. In both fiction and nonfiction, Gore is mainly known for his cutting, satirical wit. Consider for example, this description from "Ronnie and Nancy: A Life in Pictures": "I first saw Ronnie and Nancy Reagan at the Republican convention of 1964 in San Francisco's Cow Palace. Ronnie and Nancy ... were seated in a box to one side of the central area where the cows—the delegates, that is—were whooping it up." But underneath the rapier verbiage is some serious food for thought. In an article aboutthe Kennedys entitled "The Holy Family," Vidal concludes: "They create illusions and call them facts, and between what they are said to be and what they are falls the shadow of all the useful words not spoken, ofall the actual deeds not done."
The Essential Gore Vidal includes excerpts from his finestnovels, his play The Best Man, some of his early fiction, and his most memorable essays on subjects as variegated as homosexuality, feminism,and the writings of Thomas Love Peacock. Though not comprehensive, thisvolume does contain the cream of Vidal's output and makes for anexcellent introduction to one of America's great men of letters. —AlixWilber
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