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Hollywood (Narratives of Empire #5)

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  930 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Hollywood marks the fifth episode in Gore Vidal's "Narratives of Empire," his celebrated series of six historical novels that form his extended biography of the United States.
        It is 1917, and President Woodrow Wilson is about to lead the country into the Great War in Europe. In California, a new industry is born that will irreversibly transform America. Caroline San
ebook, 448 pages
Published March 23rd 2011 by Vintage (first published October 1st 1989)
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Mar 29, 2013 Nae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am slowly making my way through all the books Gore Vidal wrote. I have to admit I started reading him only in the last few years. What a marvelous writer this man was. Usually anything politically-oriented leaves me cold, but I am now 5 books into his "Narratives of Empire" series revolving around the Washington political atmosphere over the span of the revolutionary war to J.F.K., and I find these books utterly enthralling. If even half of what he has written in this series actually happened ...more
This one took a while to get through. Strange that as it was set from just before the American entry into WW1 (a favourite period) to the early twenties, it did not grab me. There were a lot of characters from the previous novel in the series, which was good, but I didn't believe a few of the plot lines (notably one in Hollywood itself). Anyway, the political detail was great as usual, although some of it was a bit in depth, covering Presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge, with a bit of Teddy R ...more
Jan 31, 2009 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting history but I find his style hard to read. Is it just me?
Jul 05, 2009 Marley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gore-vidal
I was sure I'd read Hollywood many years ago, but now I''m not sure. If I did, I didn't finish it. I'm tempted to give the book 5 stars, but will stick with 4 since it's a little unfocused in some places, and talky; though talky from GV is hardly tiresome.

Hollywood expands Caroline Sanford (and Hearst's) practice of news creation as Caroline takes the idea into film, first as the unlikely actress Emma Traxler and at the end, as a film mogul who sees film as the ultimate creation of a new society
Jill Hutchinson
Gore Vidal was quite an author.....he could write the controversial Myra Breckendridge and then turn his talent to a book like Burr. This book is somewhere in between; a historical fiction full of real people and some thinly disguised fictional ones. The title is a bit misleading since the scenario is set more in Washington, DC during the administrations of Wilson and Harding. Hollywood enters the picture when a politico discovers that the movies could be used for propaganda purposes and the ima ...more
Oct 05, 2009 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

So far so good. I haven't gotten far enough to tell what is going as far as where Vidal is taking this whole novel which seems, at least so far, epic in scope. This is one of those historical fictions where real historical personages are turned into fictional characters, but so far it has been completely believable. I think Gore Vidal is probably a pretty good student of American history, both political and cultural, though he undoubtedly has a polemic it hasn't shown itself yet. The novel opens
Nov 21, 2009 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredible book. The paragraph structure can take some getting used to - Vidal likes to interrupt quotes in odd places - and I had to create a little cheat sheet to keep track of all the characters and their entangling relationships. But if you like political history, the book is a must. It's also something of a conceit. It's the sexy side of American history: of our beautiful people and our smoke-filled back rooms of power. (Don't go looking for a more comprehensive social history.) ...more
Frank McAdam
The title is misleading. This is one of Vidal's "American Chronicle" novels (the best of the series were "Burr" and "Lincoln") and most of the action takes place in Washington, not Hollywood. This particular entry in the series is not the best. The main historical figure, Woodrow Wilson, is too dry and humorless a pedant to be interesting while his presidential successor, Harding, is a total non-entity, though for some reason Vidal gives him a much more positive character than that which history ...more
Lucas Johnson
May 14, 2016 Lucas Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much better than the previous entry in the series, it gives one a feel for how large a role the media begins to play in the formation of American ideals circa World War I. As a former comic-book collector, I would have liked to see more evidence in Vidal's writing of just how important they became in the American imagination. Perhaps the next book in the series would be a more appropriate time to introduce that element, but I fear that he may pass over the genre as he does with pulp novels in th ...more
India Gray
I like his books, but this is the worst I' e read of his. The characters are difficult to keep straight, it is repetitive (he needed an editor), the timeline is askew, and it takes forever to get somewhere. Shame because it could be Interesting topics.
The title is "Hollywood" - Set mostly in Washington DC.
"A novel of America in the 1920's" - Story is from 1917 to 1923.
Although I feel it's misrepresented on the cover, not a bad read. Found it hard to keep track as to who was who though.
Oct 13, 2010 Cindy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hollywood
I found this book slow and the characters empty. The political background was interesting but made for slow reading as it was just not what I had expected. Lots of history......just presented in a very droning type way.
Mar 19, 2012 Marci rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vidal captured the beginning of the incestuous relationship between government and the recreational media; the political and social changes presented by "image-making" have been with us ever since. Lots of facts woven throughout this fictional tapestry. Great read.
Brenda Ann
Apr 28, 2009 Brenda Ann rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I couldn't get through it. I skimmed the first 50 pages hoping it would get interesting, but at page 180 I gave up. Seemed to me the book was about a bunch of rich people with little to do. It just didn't pull me in.
Rob Salkowitz
Dec 16, 2008 Rob Salkowitz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical novel focusing on the Wilson and Harding administrations, including the political scandals and the cultural evolution from wartime puritanism and progressivism to the Roaring 20s.
Cath Murphy
A deeply turgid read. Vidal never failed to take himself very seriously and that's how he approached his fiction too. A shame, because the project is worthy, it just needed a much lighter touch.
Henry Sturcke
Nov 10, 2016 Henry Sturcke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this, the fifth of Vidal’s Narratives of Empire series, the author explores the impact of World War I and its aftermath on the fabric of the American nation. This is the era when the U.S. came into its “century” and immediately pulled back from the implications. Vidal aficianados will recognize much here: the naked ambition and pervasive corruption of public life, and the ease with which Americans accept assaults on First Amendment guarantees and allow their passions to be stirred against the ...more
David Haws
Jan 02, 2017 David Haws rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vidal
I love Vidal’s narrative voice; it’s like Edward Gibbon, occasionally intruded upon by Oscar Wilde: “‘The fight can still be won,’ said Wilson, passing on the suicide weapon, like a Japanese warrior surrendering to the next generation, a sword suitable only for disemboweling oneself.” And as always, Vidal is a writer of keen-if-painful insights: “The only freedom an American has is to conform.”

The pre-Hays era of Hollywood scandals is too well-trodden to provide a surprising narrative backdrop,
Steven Clark
Jan 05, 2016 Steven Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Hollywood. it is the next to last entry in Vidal's American series, and a lot of readers were confused by the title, because they expected it to be mostly about films. Vidal spends much time on Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding, and captures very well the background of both leaders. Caroline is still the prism where much of the action is seen, and she leaves newspaper publishing for film, discovering that film is a new medium and way of remaking history. A good book to read with this i ...more
Jul 30, 2013 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, literature
This is the second Vidal book I've read, the first one being Lincoln. I would probably have rated it four stars except it was not at all what was advertised.

I read the tittle and subtitle as being an accurate label of this book, however that is simply NOT the case. The story does take place partially in Hollywood, but most of it takes place in either Washington DC or Ohio. The story is not really about the 1920s because the first 2/3 of it take place during World War I and the Paris Peace Confe
Erwin Maack
Mais tarde, quando fez Intolerância, sucumbira ao espetacular em detrimento do intelecto. No entanto, Caroline sabia o que ele estava fazendo ou tentando fazer. Como Griffith, Tim acreditava que a imaginação do público podia ser sitiada e conquistada. Mas ele preferia, perversamente, apelar ao senso de justiça das pessoas, ao passo que Griffith as aborrecia com grandiosas visões de diversos pecados mortais. Caroline sabia que a resposta estava em algum lugar entre essas duas coisas - naquilo que ...more
Aug 19, 2008 Garen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book dragged a bit and I am looking forward to getting to the penultimate novel in the series (Washington DC) which is apparently highly regarded. I was going to give it three stars but I added another star for the sociological themes on the role of movies in formulating public opinion. I wonder how much this is true today with all the crappy things people watch (Gigli anyone?), but at bottom I think the idea has some validity even if its efficacy has waned over the last century or so. His ...more
Apr 01, 2011 Andrewh rated it liked it
This one of the less good installments in Vidal rewriting of American political history. Unlike many of the volumes, it lacks a main protagonist and flits around from politics to Hollywood, but not in a satifactory or convincing manner. Vidal makes the consistent argument that America evolved from a republic [albeit not a shining light on the hill] to a militaristic empire by its gradual involvement in international affairs after the civil war. This book traces the post-WWI era with the idealist ...more
Felisa Rosa
I'll admit it: it took me the better part of both spring and summer to read this book. I think Gore Vidal is best when he reigns himself in to focus, at least primarily, on a single historical figure. Lincoln and Burr have scores of intricately woven story lines, but benefit from adhering to the narrative arc afforded by focusing on one man's life. Hollywood , which details both the politics surrounding the Wilson and Harding administrations and the nascent film industry, is all intricately wov ...more
Dec 12, 2013 Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chronologically Hollywood is 5th in Vidal's Narratives in Empire series, and 6th by date of publication. And now it is my 7th, and I have finished! I used crib notes and the family tree from The Golden Age to keep me on track. Historical-fiction is a little explored genre of literature for me, but from my limited experience I'd say that no one does it better than Vidal. Caroline Sanford Farrell is one of my favorite characters in the series, and she is present in 4 of the 7 books. Vidal uses hum ...more
Pete Iseppi
This is book #5 in what I believe is a 7 volume "American Chronicles" series. I have to say that I enjoyed the first 4 more than this one, but that doesn't mean that this one is bad. I found my mind (what's left of it) wandering now and then. "Burr" and "Lincoln" never lost my attention.
The best thing about a Vidal book is his wit, which if you are not paying close attention, you will miss as you are breezing through the story.
This book takes place just prior to, and just after WWI. My favorit
Jul 02, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Title is a bit misleading. I thought it would be about the beginings of Hollywood. More specifically, it's about the beginings of Hollywood as a propoganda machine--as an extension and/or mouthpiece of the government. Much of the action is set in Washington DC and centers on the Wilson presidency and then later the Harding administration. So many many many characters it's like being in a long historical parade. Many of the characters are historical figures of note, so part of the challenge for m ...more
Gore Vidal is an excellent writer and I find his American history series compelling. This period becomes more accessible through the imagined dialogues and behind-the-scenes relations among the political and cultural influential figures of the 1920's. It goes far in connecting the dots between Washington, DC's ideological/political agendas (national and international) and the burgeoning film industry in Hollywood, CA. As such, a worthwhile read to connect with the entire series, but compared wit ...more
Amy Sheldon
I find it hard to follow the story. I'm not sure why, but the style of prose doesn't lend itself to easy reading. Easily distracted from it, couldn't follow it, sudden changes in plot (wait, what? did this story just jump months into the future between paragraphs?). I struggled to finish this book. It also seemed to be somewhat dependent on the book that preceded it in the series (Significant Statements, which meant nothing to me), which I haven't read and I'm unlikely to read now. Took me almos ...more
Steve Mayer
The third of these books that I've read in a row and, not surprisingly, the least satisfying. Although it is subtitled as a story of America in the 1920s, in fact the first half of the book takes place before 1920, during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Be that as it may, our heroine Caroline Sanford has left Washington DC for Hollywood, where she decides that making movies is a better way than owning a newspaper to mold public opinion. Yet we still get satisfying cameos from various players i ...more
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Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was an American writer known for his essays, novels, screenplays, and Broadway plays. He was also known for his patrician manner, Transatlantic accent, and witty aphorisms. Vidal came from a distinguished political lineage; his grandfather was the senator Thomas Gore, and he later became a relation (through marriage) to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Vidal ran for political office twi
More about Gore Vidal...

Other Books in the Series

Narratives of Empire (7 books)
  • Burr
  • Lincoln
  • 1876
  • Empire
  • Washington, D.C.
  • The Golden Age

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