cover image Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir

Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir

Gore Vidal, . . Doubleday, $26 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51721-8

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)