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A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal

30 July 2014
... 25 July 1978 (Tuesday). Dinner at George’s, where GoreVidal 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 – ...
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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... The American novelist living in Europe and the British historian living in America are in broad agreement. According to GoreVidal, 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 ...

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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... Herold’s friend, John Wilkes Booth, the most notorious of all those Americans who have sought to win fame by killing heroes and idols. In this urgent manner, blending the legendary and the humdrum, GoreVidal 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 ...

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 GoreVidal 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. It is a beautiful place, if you like houses perched on cliffs, with an epic view of the ...

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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... dead, hate living,’ intones Boris Karloff’s monster in Bride of Frankenstein. He’s not alone. ‘I prefer my subjects dead,’ Fred Kaplan confesses in the prelude to his ambitious biography of GoreVidal. 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 ...

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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... pusillanimous or venal. It’s quite a trick to seize power in every corner of American politics – as conservatives have in the past decade – only to announce loudly that things were never worse. GoreVidal 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 ...
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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... They used to go to Paris when they died. Now good Americans simply shift from one plane of fiction to another, leaving the Dallas of Lee Harvey Oswald, say, for that of J.R. Or so it is suggested in GoreVidal’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 ...
24 April 1997
... I do not come to Lilliputia with a measuring stick.’ This was GoreVidal, 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. Even our sleaze strikes him as laughably small-scale: ‘just kindergarten ...

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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... 11, tea, crumpets and cakes at four). The vignettes of the famous he has dealt with combine the fluttering 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 ...

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 GoreVidal’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 ...

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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... toad – is the history of writers taking a break from other forms in order, not to ask themselves que sais-je? but simply to strut their stuff. Hardly anybody has done that to better effect than GoreVidal, 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 ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The candidates for the US presidency (2000)

6 January 2000
... preoccupation of the Party managers and – there was exactly nothing to cover, nothing to transmit, and nothing to write about. A day or so passed, in this city of sinister charm (once described by GoreVidal 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 ...

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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... Hollywood that has the authority of the smartest girl at the party. Stein speaks to the butlers and the chauffeurs, the studio wives, the bit-part players, to the Arthur Miller, Dennis Hopper and GoreVidal 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly

9 August 2001
... didn’t get hit by someone who wasn’t James Thackara, after Hensher, reviewing Thackara’s first novel, said he couldn’t ‘write “Bum” on a wall’. At least Norman Mailer did head-butt GoreVidal. 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 ...

No Accident

Zachary Leader: Gore Vidal’s Golden Age

21 June 2001
The Golden Age: A Novel 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 467 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 316 85409 3
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... Of course I like my country,’ GoreVidal has written. ‘After all, I’m its current biographer.’ With the publication of The Golden Age, the biography draws to a close. The novels which comprise it, to list them in order of the ...

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