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Gore Vidal: A Biography

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Novelist, culture critic, essayist, satirist, and cynic--in this vastly entertaining biography, Gore Vidal's multifaceted personality is brought to life as Kaplan illuminates this literary giant with accuracy, insight and wit. 50 illustrations throughout. Novelist, culture critic, essayist, satirist, and cynic--in this vastly entertaining biography, Gore Vidal's multifaceted personality is brought to life as Kaplan illuminates this literary giant with accuracy, insight and wit. 50 illustrations throughout.


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Novelist, culture critic, essayist, satirist, and cynic--in this vastly entertaining biography, Gore Vidal's multifaceted personality is brought to life as Kaplan illuminates this literary giant with accuracy, insight and wit. 50 illustrations throughout. Novelist, culture critic, essayist, satirist, and cynic--in this vastly entertaining biography, Gore Vidal's multifaceted personality is brought to life as Kaplan illuminates this literary giant with accuracy, insight and wit. 50 illustrations throughout.

30 review for Gore Vidal: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    James

    On the back cover of Fred Kaplan's biography of Gore Vidal, there is a photo of Vidal standing with Tennessee Williams and John F. Kennedy. This is worth noting because it illustrates the two sides of the controversial man: literary icon and keen observer of political power. Vidal was and is a very difficult person to write about because he has so many sides: political idealist and bitter cynic, literary elitist and celebrity novelist, a peace activist with a highly pugnacious personality. Kapla On the back cover of Fred Kaplan's biography of Gore Vidal, there is a photo of Vidal standing with Tennessee Williams and John F. Kennedy. This is worth noting because it illustrates the two sides of the controversial man: literary icon and keen observer of political power. Vidal was and is a very difficult person to write about because he has so many sides: political idealist and bitter cynic, literary elitist and celebrity novelist, a peace activist with a highly pugnacious personality. Kaplan does an excellent job of showing Vidal as all these things and more. This is simply one of the best biographies I've ever read. Highly detailed, but never boring, it touches on all the major friendships and feuds (Capote, Mailer, Buckley) that even people only casually familiar with Vidal know about. Kaplan deserves praise for not vilifying those people with whom Vidal feuded; many biographers would simply have said that Vidal was completely in the right, whereas Kaplan gives us balanced portraits of complicated people and situations. One of the reasons this biography is such a joy is it gives the reader ample demonstration of Vidal's scintillating wit and always illuminating social observation/criticism. Even those who disagree strongly with Vidal can find much to like here; as Martin Amis once said of Vidal, "Even his blind spots are illuminating." Overall, this is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the man often considered America's greatest living man of letters.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen-Leigh

    A quote from The Observer, an interview with Vidal in 2007 – I am using it as a potted review of this book. ““The catalogue raisonné of Vidal's remarkable meetings is a mini-history of Anglo-American literature and politics, from EM Forster and Eleanor Roosevelt to Rupert Everett and Hillary Clinton. 'The best thing about being Anglophone,' he observes, elegiacally, 'is that you have two countries.' As a young man, he encountered Harold Acton, Samuel Barber, Cecil Beaton, Albert Camus, Chips Chan A quote from The Observer, an interview with Vidal in 2007 – I am using it as a potted review of this book. ““The catalogue raisonné of Vidal's remarkable meetings is a mini-history of Anglo-American literature and politics, from EM Forster and Eleanor Roosevelt to Rupert Everett and Hillary Clinton. 'The best thing about being Anglophone,' he observes, elegiacally, 'is that you have two countries.' As a young man, he encountered Harold Acton, Samuel Barber, Cecil Beaton, Albert Camus, Chips Channon, James Dean, William Faulkner, Federico Fellini, Greta Garbo, Evelyn Waugh (whom he describes as 'a drunken social climber') and George Santayana. The enfant terrible of the transatlantic literary scene, he partied with Isherwood, slept with Kerouac, dined with Auden, travelled with Tennessee Williams ('the Bird') and enjoyed a strange, platonic friendship with Anais Nin. The Man Who Knew Everyone was especially successful in postwar London. Vidal's English connection, a source of pride and gratification, and well-represented by the signed photographs surrounding him in Hollywood, included Princess Margaret, Kenneth Tynan, Alec Guinness and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the Bois de Boulogne. It is a mark of his ease at this altitude, possibly as the perfect guest and also as a formidably entertaining wit, that he is emphatically neither a name dropper nor a snob. What people liked about Vidal, I suspect, was his exquisite manners, his contrarian mind and the exhilarating range of his gifts. The attraction was mutual: they were as much drawn to him as he to them.”” As someone who reads one biography which leads to another biography and so on, many of the names above are familiar to me as I have read biographies of Hillary Clinton, Harold Acton, Cecil Beaton, Chips Channon, James Dean, Kenneth Tynan, Alec Guinness, Duke and Duchess of Windsor and, of course, the diaries of Anais Nin. He also knew Amelia Earhart and so very many others I have read. It was a pleasure to meet them all again gathered together passing through Gore Vidal’s life like a cat’s cradle. The book was 850 pages of tiny print and slow going. Not boring but also not exciting, just interesting enough to keep going but dull enough to keep putting it down time after time to go off and do things like dishes. This is a major, very very detailed, not at all salacious look at Gore Vidal’s life and a must read for any true fan.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    Very well written and researched. I came to the book from the "Best of Enemies" documentary where the book's author is interviewed. Very well written and researched. I came to the book from the "Best of Enemies" documentary where the book's author is interviewed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tameron Keyes

    I loved this book. Gore Vidal was a very interesting man. Now I'm reading The Essential Gore Vidal also by Fred Kaplan. I loved this book. Gore Vidal was a very interesting man. Now I'm reading The Essential Gore Vidal also by Fred Kaplan.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    Vidal knew everybody and had sex with many of them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    Well-written book and definitely very interesting as the life of Gore Vidal is wonderfully full of people who have left or leave a mark on the world. In addition, the writer has been able to capture several facets of both the political scientist and the writer; for me also has been very interesting the historical event that this book allowed me to discover as there were many things that I did not know about the history of the fifties, sixties and seventies especially regarding the United States Well-written book and definitely very interesting as the life of Gore Vidal is wonderfully full of people who have left or leave a mark on the world. In addition, the writer has been able to capture several facets of both the political scientist and the writer; for me also has been very interesting the historical event that this book allowed me to discover as there were many things that I did not know about the history of the fifties, sixties and seventies especially regarding the United States of America. Libro ben scritto e decisamente molto interessante in quanto la vita di Gore Vidal é meravigliosamente piena di gente che ha lasciato o lascia un segno nel mondo. Inoltre lo scrittore é stato in grado di cogliere parecchie sfaccettature sia dello scrittore che del politologo ed é stata molto interessante la ricostruzione storica che mi ha permesso di scoprire molte cose che non sapevo della storia degli anni cinquanta, sessanta e settanta specialmente per quanto riguarda gli Stati Uniti d'America.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    As good a biography as we are ever likely to get on this novelist-essayist-provocateur-historian-gadfly-raconteur-pundit. Kaplan straightened me out on a few details: for instance, I'd always assumed Vidal wrote his excellent play The Best Man after his unsuccessful congressional bid, when it actually came after. I would have preferred a little more analysis of the novels, but Kaplan's strong suit is winnowing out interesting details and giving persuasive thumbnail portraits of the people and si As good a biography as we are ever likely to get on this novelist-essayist-provocateur-historian-gadfly-raconteur-pundit. Kaplan straightened me out on a few details: for instance, I'd always assumed Vidal wrote his excellent play The Best Man after his unsuccessful congressional bid, when it actually came after. I would have preferred a little more analysis of the novels, but Kaplan's strong suit is winnowing out interesting details and giving persuasive thumbnail portraits of the people and situations that formed Vidal's dazzling, hugely productive life. It'd be nice if other writers went on from here, but Kaplan's meticulous, highly readable chronicle is an excellent start.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This fascinating lengthy account of the famous fiction and essay writer is compelling for its coverage of Vidal's family history, his own early success as a writer while enduring an abusive alcoholic mother; his contradictory views on homosexuality, including his own, his contentious battles with colleagues turned nemeses (authors Truman Capote and Norman Mailer), and his legal battles with the odious William F. Buckley. Vidal's private and public lives are given a thorough accounting up to his This fascinating lengthy account of the famous fiction and essay writer is compelling for its coverage of Vidal's family history, his own early success as a writer while enduring an abusive alcoholic mother; his contradictory views on homosexuality, including his own, his contentious battles with colleagues turned nemeses (authors Truman Capote and Norman Mailer), and his legal battles with the odious William F. Buckley. Vidal's private and public lives are given a thorough accounting up to his later years in Italy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Claire M.

    Gore Vidal is one of my favorite authors. His historical novels should be mandatory reading for all high schoolers. For that reason alone, I would be fascinated with this book, but also we have an inside look into the enfant terribles of the 50s, who came out of the war years and took the literary establishment by the horns. It's worth reading for the politics and social history of of the 60s and 70s. Gore Vidal is one of my favorite authors. His historical novels should be mandatory reading for all high schoolers. For that reason alone, I would be fascinated with this book, but also we have an inside look into the enfant terribles of the 50s, who came out of the war years and took the literary establishment by the horns. It's worth reading for the politics and social history of of the 60s and 70s.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    One of my favorite authors-and such an amazing biography! In depth, unapologetic, fascinating and an effortless read. He was such an amazing man-in all aspects of his careers and life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cristián

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carol-Anne

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rui

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Ryder

  18. 5 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vinton Rafe

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Shen

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tara

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nina

  24. 4 out of 5

    J. Finnie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda Holmes

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  27. 5 out of 5

    Graeme

  28. 5 out of 5

    G David

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bill

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