cover image Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories

Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories

Gore Vidal, . . Carroll & Graf, $13.95 (166pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1810-8

The rediscovery of the previously unpublished title work is the occasion for collecting Vidal's short stories—all eight of them—for the first time. That piece, which closes the collection, features an episode from Tennessee Williams's childhood in which the young playwright decides to pre-empt sin through suicide, a decision complicated by knowledge that his uncle is being blackmailed for sexual misconduct with a minor. Discretion kept this story from Vidal's 1956 collection A Thirsty Evil , but it's clearly continuous with the seven others, many of which also contain homoerotic elements and a tone of tart disillusion: in "Three Stratagems," a suave young man suffers an epileptic seizure before he can sell his body; in "The Zenner Trophy," a prep school athlete is expelled for an affair with a male classmate. Mortality and shades of E.B. White's famous distortions of time enter as well, as a middle-aged man runs into himself as a boy ("A Moment of Green Laurel"), and another spends a night in his childhood bedroom ("The Ladies in the Library"). Vidal's short-form execution is strangely ineffective: he often locates action off the page, then labors to bring the information into the story cleanly. But readers will recognize the frosty vision and frequently artful prose of the essayist of United States and the novelist of Myra Breckinridge . (Sept.)