cover image The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal

The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal, . . Doubleday, $27.50 (458pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52484-1

Vidal's daunting career has encompassed 24 novels, 11 essay collections, six plays, two memoirs and countless occasional writings. This new collection is an entry point into this literary giant's work for a new generation of readers, offering some of Vidal's most famous and entertaining essays from the past 50-odd years. Compiled and introduced by Parini (The Last Station ), Vidal's literary executor, the pieces range across Vidal's far-flung areas of expertise, resting most frequently and contentiously on literature and presidential politics of the past and present. His assessment of “The Top Ten Bestsellers” of January 7, 1973, is a savagely meticulous dissection of middlebrow American taste, while “American Plastic” tacks in the opposite direction, skewering the academy-approved, theory-based fiction of Donald Barthelme and William Gass with derisive glee. Vidal's comfort in puncturing conventional wisdom with his wit and analysis is fully displayed throughout, most notably in his discussion of the battle over the Kennedy legacy in “The Holy Family” and the controversial “Black Tuesday,” which condemns the Bush administration for its alleged imperial ambitions in the wake of September 11. (June 17)