“Unmissable. . . . Wry. . . . [Vidal’s] wit remains by far this book's most alluring attribute.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Engaging. . . . Point to Point Navigation is a stirring political protest, a meditation on the fleeting nature of memory, and, quite movingly, an elegiac rumination on loss.”
“Touchingly elegiac. . . . Even mortality and aging seem somehow less formidable in the company of such a witty, penetrating–and unfailingly nervy intelligence.”
—Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine
Gore Vidal's talents as a raconteur are in evidence throughout this captivating and insightful memoir. Point to Point Navigation picks up where his 1995 Palimpsest left off. Apparently, the pace of Vidal's life has not slackened since the mid-'60s, nor has he lost his sharp tongue and keen wit. His observations capture his famous associates at their best and their worst; the book's celebrity roster includes Tennessee Williams, the Kennedys, Orson Welles, Johnny Carson, Greta Garbo, Federico Fellini, Francis Ford Coppola, Elia Kazan, and Rudolph Nureyev. Point by Point Navigation is a feast for gossips, but this memoir also embodies Vidal's heartfelt thoughts about his deepest convictions and loves. A major statement by a brilliant gadfly.
The biggest surprise…of Vidal's latest memoirmore surprising than Eleanor Roosevelt's (allegedly) sapphic passion for Amelia Earhart, more surprising than Jeanette MacDonald (allegedly) groping a strange man, more surprising even than the young Gore's hero-worship of Mickey Rooneyis the sight of America's iciest provocateur thawing at the prospect of his own endgame. Bereaved, unmoored, hobbled by an artificial knee and ruptured spinal disks, the Vidal of Point to Point Navigation is reduced, like the hero of Samuel Beckett's play "Krapp's Last Tape," to a conversation with old selves.
And what glamorous selves they were. Vidal may be a populist on paper, but he has managed to spend a large part of his life standing on Aubusson rugs.
The Washington Post
It would be too easy to say Vidal's second memoir picks up where Palimpsest left off; as in that earlier book, he essentially lets his memories flow at will, often revisiting yet again the stories of his Washington childhood. The general focus, however, is on the latter half of his life, particularly the deaths of those closest to him, including his longtime companion, Howard Auster. Yet Vidal changes subjects and tone so frequently and abruptly here tender, here combative that the family memories and celebrity anecdotes become scattershot, limping to a close with a bizarre summary of somebody else's theory about how organized crime bosses ordered the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Assured of his own genius ("I have never needed an editor"), he repeatedly slams biographer Fred Kaplan as "dull" and sex-obsessed, then jabs at a few other people who've written about him. He also makes frequent observations about the current events unfolding as he writes, and his criticisms of the New York Times and the Bush administration's "oil-and-gas junta" will come as no surprise. In short, the memoir is a perfect encapsulation of Vidal's outsized personality and readers' reactions will be determined by how they already feel about him. (Nov. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The title of this sequel to prolific author Vidal's 1995 memoir, Palimpsest, refers to navigating not with a compass but by memory of landmarks. Here, the demise of those near and dear to him is often a topic of interest to octogenarian Vidal, and one he describes affectingly. His wit and sharp tongue are also much in evidence, particularly in the captions for his photos. Some of the material from Palimpsest is repeated, such as Vidal's runs for electoral office and his interactions with President John F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt-but then where is true north anyway? Vidal feels an affinity for the great memoirist and essayist Michel de Montaigne, and in his free-flowing style one can see the similarity. But for an entire book, it grows tedious to keep losing the thread. Though Vidal's critiques of his own critics give this reviewer pause, one might do better simply to skip his memoirs and instead read his other literary genres as examples of his writing skills. For larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/06.]-Gina Kaiser, Univ. of the Sciences in Philadelphia Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In this successor to the first volume of his memoir, Palimpsest (1995), prolific novelist/essayist/gadfly Vidal mixes mournful minor keys among his usual trumpet blasts against what he regards as an American emporium run by oil men and religious fanatics. Vidal fans will recognize much material from Palimpsest and Screening History, which offered his meditations on the movies. But in contrast to earlier reminiscences, "melancholy baggage" weighs more heavily on him here-declining health and departed friends, notably longtime companion Howard Austen. (The account of the latter's final days is the most affecting part of this book.) Moving from his villa in Ravello, Italy, to the Hollywood Hills, Vidal starts this year-long chronicle on New Year's Eve 2004. Death-Iraq casualties, disaster victims in New Orleans, the exits of Saul Bellow, Johnny Carson and Pope John Paul II-provokes a flood of memories and political fulminations. Like a weary ancient Roman patrician, he awaits his turn to shuffle off this mortal coil, though not without cost. "These rehearsals for death take more and more out of one," he confesses. Sensing that time is no longer on his side, Vidal summons his energies to celebrate friends, flay enemies (the New York Times froze his first several novels out of its daily book reviews, largely, he says, because of his sexual orientation) and bemoan the end of "our old original Republic." When of a mind, Vidal can produce memorable portraits (e.g., on Orson Welles: "When he laughed, which was often, his face, starting at the lower lip, would turn scarlet while sweat formed on his brow like a sudden spring rain"). But while taking credit for urging JFK to create a Peace Corps, hefails to note it was proposed in Congress earlier. Moreover, he mentions nothing about imbroglios with William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer, and is mostly silent on novels like Lincoln and Burr. Though Vidal's memories from encounters in DC, New York, Hollywood and elsewhere remain intact, the wit that animates the best of his oeuvre is largely absent, leaving a voice at best affecting and at worst hectoring.