"A marvelous compendium of sharp wit and independent judgment that confirms his status as a man of letters."
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 post–World 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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About the Author
Hometown:La Rondinaia, a villa in Ravello, Italy; and Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:October 3, 1925
Place of Birth:West Point, New York
Education:Attended St. Albans. Graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, 1943. No college.
Read an Excerpt
I wrote the first of these pieces in 1952, the year that Eisenhower was elected president, and the last in 1992, the year of Clinton’s election. The first piece, “The Twelve Caesars,” was written after rereading Suetonius and realizing that I had never before got the point of what he is telling us, not so much about the Caesars as about our common humanity and the nature of power. Apparently, people still miss the point: it took a long time before anyone would publish so “outrageous” a commentary.
This collection represents about two thirds of the essays or pieces that I have published over forty years. They seem to fall naturally into three categories: literature, or the state of the art; politics, or the state of the union; personal responses to people and events, not to mention old movies and children’s books, or the state of being. So, herewith, my three states—united.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
Thankfully this collection stops just as Vidal's politics are becoming annoyingly cranky. Vidal in the twenty-first century has unfortunately taken some of the joy and some of the credit out of his sometimes daring, sometimes bitchy, but always entertaining essays from the late twentieth century. Which is a shame. They can still be a guilty pleasure though ;-)
Vidal write clearly and presents a very lucid point of view, which he marshals from a vast corpus of his reading, listening, watching, and thinking.Many will disagree with his conclusions, or even with his presuppositions. The clarity of his arguments, however, gives the reader the opportunity to absorb his wisdom and experience without risk to his own.It is hard to fault anything in this volume except for its length. The three main sections; on literature and the arts, on American politics, and on his own experience, could be as easily divided into separate volumes.