The product of thirty years of friendship and conversation, Jay Parini s "Empire of Self" digs behind the glittering surface of Gore Vidal s colorful career to reveal the complex emotional and sexual truths underlying his celebrity-strewn life.Read more...
The product of thirty years of friendship and conversation, Jay Parini s "Empire of Self" digs behind the glittering surface of Gore Vidal s colorful career to reveal the complex emotional and sexual truths underlying his celebrity-strewn life. But there is plenty of glittering surface as well a virtual "Who s Who" of the twentieth century, from Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart through the Kennedys, Johnny Carson, Leonard Bernstein, and the creme de la creme of Hollywood. Also a generous helping offeuds with the likes of William F. Buckley, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and "The" "New York Times," among other adversaries.
The life of Gore Vidal teemed with notable incidents, famous people, and lasting achievements that call out for careful evocation and examination. Jay Parini crafts Vidal s life into an accessible, entertaining story that puts the experience of one of the great American figures of the postwar era into context, introduces the author and his works to a generation who may not know him, and looks behind the scenes at the man and his work in ways never possible before his death. Provided with unique access to Vidal s life and his papers, Parini excavates many buried skeletons yet never loses sight of his deep respect for Vidal and his astounding gifts. This is the biography Gore Vidal novelist, essayist, dramatist, screenwriter, historian, wit, provocateur, and pioneer of gay rights has long needed."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Acclaimed biographer Parini (Robert Frost: A Life) draws on his 30 years of friendship and conversation with Gore Vidal (1925–2012), as well as on deep archival research, to offer a simultaneously admiring and candid portrait. With an elegance worthy of Vidal himself, Parini gracefully chronicles Vidal’s life from his childhood (he lived in a world of fantasies shaped by the movies he saw to escape his parents’ constant fighting and eventual divorce) and teenage years (he was a poor student, but always felt the siren song of writing) to the publication of his first novel, Williwaw, in 1946, and his struggles with and eventual acceptance of his homosexuality. As famous for his friends as for his writing, Vidal rubbed shoulders with Eleanor Roosevelt and John and Jacqueline Kennedy, and feuded with William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer. Parini nimbly explores Vidal’s fiction—from the controversial Myra Breckinridge to the historical novels Lincoln, Burr, and Julian—and nonfiction, such as Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson. Vidal emerges as a brave and provocative political observer, yet a shy man, who, as Parini observes, wore the “elaborately contrived mask of Gore Vidal.” Parini’s access to Vidal and his thoughtful reflections on him establish this as the definitive biography of a major writer. Agent: Geri Thoma, Writers House. (Oct.)