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Marcy SheinerThe fourteen essays and three interviews in this collection provide trenchant insight on subjects ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt's love life to the gay liberation movement, feminism and pornography. Dating from 1965 to the present, most of the essays were written as book reviews, but Vidal's brand of literary criticism casts a wide net. Fully half of a review of a gay novel is a scathing diatribe against anti-gay conservatives.
Acerbic wit is Vidal's hallmark. He generates laughter not from embarrassment or discomfort, but with an outrageous irreverence for mainstream thought. An iconoclast to the end, Vidal refuses to be categorized as homosexual, even when relentlessly badgered by a tunnel-visioned Larry Kramer to wave the lavender flag. Indeed, Vidal believes there are no homosexual or heterosexual people, only "same-sex" or "other-sex" acts. Unfortunately, this philosophy begins to crack alongside Vidal's conviction that the only purpose of the human species is to reproduce-a notion that plays into the hands of those who condemn same-sex acts on just this theory. Still, even when you disagree with Vidal, he is always entertaining and provocative.