Vidal, who died in 2012, never lacked for a pointed bon mot; his prolific output included novels, plays, essays, and memoirs. In this enjoyable but slight volume, Wiener (How We Forgot the Cold War), a contributing editor to the Nation and a radio host, presents four extended interviews he conducted with Vidal between 1988 and 2007. The conversations focus on politics, both in the context of Vidal’s historical fiction and in real life, including his campaigns for Congress in 1960 and 1982. Among other topics, Vidal discusses his Washington, D.C., upbringing and his grandfather, a senator from Oklahoma; theories about Lincoln and F.D.R.; his take on populism and party politics; and his assessment of the Bushes and the Gores. Though Vidal remains piquantly opinionated, the book serves more as an aperitif than a meal. For the uninitiated, it will surely whet the appetite to read Vidal’s novels, or to find essays that more fully explicate his political positions. Wiener also frustratingly repeats questions, with the intent of providing us with different answers from Vidal at different times and to different audiences, but a more expansive approach might have served the volume better. And, as Wiener himself notes wistfully, one also does yearn for the distinctive sound and cadence of Vidal’s mesmerizing voice. Agent: John Oakes. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/2013 Release date: 03/01/2013 Genre: Nonfiction
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