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United States: Essays 1952-1992

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From the age of Eisenhower to the dawning of the Clinton era, Gore Vidal’s United States offers an incomparably rich tapestry of American intellectual and political life in a tumultuous period. It also provides the best, most sustained exposure possible to the most wide-ranging, acute, and original literary intelligence of the postWorld War II years. United States is an essential book in the canon of twentieth-century American literature and an endlessly fascinating work. ...
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Overview

From the age of Eisenhower to the dawning of the Clinton era, Gore Vidal’s United States offers an incomparably rich tapestry of American intellectual and political life in a tumultuous period. It also provides the best, most sustained exposure possible to the most wide-ranging, acute, and original literary intelligence of the postWorld War II years. United States is an essential book in the canon of twentieth-century American literature and an endlessly fascinating work.

Comprising more than 100 of Vidal's inimitable pieces, this National Book Award winner features the author's choice of the essays that he has written over a period of 40 years--a definitive guide to post-war America. Index.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This mammoth omnibus of 114 essays is vintage Vidal, a marvelous compendium of sharp wit and independent judgment that confirms his status as a man of letters. The prolific novelist/critic offers withering putdowns of the French ``new novel,'' billionaire Howard Hughes and bestseller lists. He displays a reporter's hard nose for facts in travel pieces on Nasser's Egypt and Mongolia. He pens definitive portraits of H. L. Mencken, Oscar Wilde, Anthony Burgess, L. Frank Baum. He reminisces on his boyhood friendship with Amelia Earhart, who, we learn, was in love with Vidal's father, Eugene, FDR's director of commercial aviation. Mingling patrician impulses and egalitarian, subversive sentiments, Vidal takes unfashionable stances, as when he urges the legalization of drugs or ending military aid to the Middle East, including Israel. His sense of the United States as hub of an overextended empire informs pieces on ``American sissy'' Theodore Roosevelt, JFK, CIA spook E. Howard Hunt and the bloated military budget. (June)
Library Journal
This hefty volume will need strong binding: it contains 114 essays and over 1300 pages of Vidal's barbed opinions, articulate insights, intellectual observations, and more ``correctionist'' opinions. These pieces represent two-thirds of the essays Vidal has published over 40 years and fall into three categories: literary, political, and personal. Why the other one-third was omitted or why these particular ones were gathered at this time is not clear. If the aim is a ``complete works,'' then why not include the other third and divide them into three physical volumes with proper editing? Such a collection would be worthwhile. Because Vidal's essays are always provocative, full of interesting facts, and have the immediacy of a conversation, this collection might be of interest to both public and academic libraries. Libraries on a tight budget can remember that the essays have appeared previously in such publications as the New York Review of Books .-- Nancy Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Library Journal
Vidal's National Book Award-winning volume comprises 114 essays. Vidal paints in broad strokes, and the pieces cover history and politics (Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy); sociology (feminism, the American Empire); American and world literature including figures such as Tennessee Williams, William Dean Howells, Norman Mailer, Henry James, Edmund Wilson, Anthony Burgess, Paul Bowles, and more; and of, course, the film industry. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From Barnes & Noble
Spanning the administrations of Eisenhower & Clinton, these essays are divided into three categories: literature or state of the art; politics or the state of the union; and personal responses to people and events or the state of being.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767908061
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/15/2001
  • Pages: 1312
  • Product dimensions: 3.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is the author of twenty-two novels, five plays, many screenplays and short stories, more than two hundred essays, and a memoir. His most recent novel is The Golden Age, and his new essay collection, The Last Empire: Essays 1993?2000, has just been published.

Biography

As a prominent post-WWII novelist, socialite and public figure, Gore Vidal has lived a life of incredible variety. Throughout his career, he has rubbed shoulders and crossed swords with many of the foremost cultural and political figures of our century: from Jack Kennedy to Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote to William F. Buckley.

From his early arrival on the literary scene, Vidal's fascinations with politics, power and public figures have informed his writing. He takes his first name from his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, a populist Senator from Oklahoma for whom neither blindness nor feuds with FDR could prevent a long, distinguished career (Incidentally, T.P. Gore belonged to the same political dynasty into which Al Gore was born). Vidal's best-received historical fictions, like Julian, Burr, and Lincoln, re-imagine the personal and political lives of powerful figures in history. In his essays, he frequently chooses political subjects, as he did with his damaging assessment of Robert Kennedy-for-President in an Esquire article in 1963.

At the same time, Vidal's assets as a writer have made him a dangerous public figure in his own right. His sharp wit has discomposed the unrufflable (William F. Buckley) and the frequently ruffled (Norman Mailer) alike, and did so terrify his congressional campaign opponent J. Ernest Wharton that the latter refused to engage Vidal in debate. Even since he's left his aspirations as a politician behind, Vidal's attraction to controversial political issues continues in his provocative essays and public appearances.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edgar Box (mysteries), Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (full name)
      Gore Vidal
    2. Hometown:
      La Rondinaia, a villa in Ravello, Italy; and Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 3, 1925
    2. Place of Birth:
      West Point, New York
    1. Education:
      Attended St. Albans. Graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, 1943. No college.

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  • Posted October 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Essayist without Equal

    Gore Vidal was the only postwar writer capable of teasing out American insecurities about its place in the world from almost every subject. It would be enough to make him a great writer if he had 'simply' written about art, or politics, or the great people he had known, but in this collection it's all three and then some. If you've read the product description or any of Vidal's essays, you won't need me to tell you how diverse his topics of interest are, or how well-versed he is in writing about all of them. This is a canon of Vidal's essays if there will ever be one, and it wisely ends before the 21st century, when the great man was clearly in decline. These aren't essays like you'll read in some online rags today. They are long, thoughtful pieces, each referencing many facets of life and Americana. Multiple political party conventions are analyzed. Monotheism meets its unmaker. His contemporaries are, of course, turned inside out and occasionally chewed up and tossed away like a pet's toy. Vidal has the almost enviable gift of writing about anything for an indefinite length of time. These essays will take longer to read than today's ten minute, single topic simple screeds, and in most cases they must be read several times just to pick up threads that were missed earlier when your hands were already full. Vidal has recently left us, but the dense yet enjoyable scribblings of this 20th century master will continue to inspire those few brave 21st century Americans who dare to tackle this brick.

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