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Washington D.C. (Narratives of Empire #6)

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,080 ratings  ·  62 reviews
With a New Introduction

Washington, D.C., is the final installment in Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire,his acclaimed six-volume series of historical novels about the American past. It offers an illuminating portrait of our republic from the time of the New Deal to the McCar-thy era.

Widely regarded as Vidal's ultimate comment on how the American political system degrades th
Hardcover, 543 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Ediciones B (first published 1967)
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Jeffrey Keeten

"The apes have always governed us, and our complaints are simply monkey chatter."

The local library had a fistful of Gore Vidal's to pick from, but I had already decided I was going to pick up this novel for several reasons. First, it is the first novel in the Narratives of Empire series. Second, it was published in 1967. The year of my birth. It is interesting for me to see what was published, and what was on the minds of the people the year I was born. Third, I own a signed first edition that
Consider me scorned. I thought Gore was sincere when he swept me away. Burr left me panting. It had balance, it was quick but solid. I nearly swooned.

Now? Washington D.C reeked of hyperbole; a kiss and tell where Vidal begs with glee, look at me. The novel is a settling of scores poised between ludicrous coincidences. A moldy snapshot of cocktail parties and dirty deeds. It is a Jackie Collins for the Beltway. Now I'm not so sure. If Gore comes a knocking, I'll gird myself, stay dressed, but ab
Robert McDonald
In preparation of my move to the District, I picked up Gore Vidal’s novel Washington, DC. It’s the most subtle and complete description I’ve ever read of our nation’s capitol. I think it captures perfectly the odd dual nature of the city, part southerners who live there permanently and part itinerant politicians floating in from (what DC views as) the hinterlands.

Despite the numerous entertaining romances and scandals that fill its pages, the book is fundamentally a meditation on the nature of p
May 22, 2010 Aaron rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Political junkies, fans of historical fiction

If there is one thing that I take away from Gore Vidal's political treatises in the Narratives of Empire, it is that nothing ever changes. Despite being set during the period of the Second World War (the late 1930's through the early 1950's), and written/published in the mid 1960's, the scandals, intrigues, betrayals, and political maneuverings read as if they had been ripped from the modern day headlines. apparently politics has always been as corrupt and politicians as self serving as they are

Vidal presents a vivid portrait of American politics from the lead-up to the Second World War to the advent of the Cold War. He contrasts the political principles of the old school, embodied in the figure of Senator Burden day, with that of the new in the political machinations of the media-savvy senatorial aide, Clay Overbury. The latter is presented as a JFK-esque figure with a polished war record, and whose presentabel image and high society marriage play a major part in determining ascent th ...more
I've been reading all of the "Empire" series in chronological order of the plot, and I like this one the least so far. It seems to deal far less with real historical events, and is more of a melodrama between Vidal's characters than anything else.

That said, Vidal is still a superb writer, and still manages to provide great insight into a period of politics and American history. This is a good and relatively quick read.
Washington, D.C. chronicles the changing of national politics and political life after WWII, and Washington D.C. society on the eve of war. The U.S.A. transforms into an Empire after WWII. Gloria Steinem called it a "gossipy, underrated novel." Gore was raised in D.C. so I suspect much of what he details in the novel happened in real life; he had an insider's seat to Washington, D.C. and national politics. Vidal ran for Congress in New York State in 1960. His grandfather was a Senator; his dad w ...more
A novel of pre-war politics and the dawn of the American Empire. Three men, the son of a newspaper tycoon, an aging but hale senator and the senator's poor but ambitious aide cross from the corridors of power on Capitol Hill to the drawing rooms of power in the surrounding city. Titanic events in the world at large dwarf them, but they are at the heart of the political and cultural elite and the poison and futility of politics is matched by their squalid family dealings.

It won't come as a surpri
I read this for our Family Book Group. Don't know who selected it, but I'll have to thank them. This is the first book written (1967) in Gore Vidal's heptalogy "Narratives of Empire", though chronologically it is the 6th. It covers the years 1937 through 1956, and fits into the genre of Historical Fiction. We are aware of the "real" people involved in the events—FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, McCarthy, Dulles, Hull, etc.—though they never appear as "on stage". Instead the narrative of the years is tol ...more
Graham Crawford
Finally- finished the American Chronicles ...I started with the last, and ended with the first, so I have probably inverted any intended rhetorical devices of structure. I can say it does work back to front. What did jump out at me, finishing with "Washington, D.C", was that Gore Vidal has a very limited repertoire of fictional characters. The novels which included more historical people worked a lot better for me.

The reason for this is that Gore Vidal has no compassion for his characters, and
I'm reading Narratives of Empire in chronological order, and I'd forgotten than Washington DC was published in 1967, way before the others. So, it was a little strange reading forward, yet backward at the same time, without the rich background of the rest of the series. Knowing the relationship between Blaise Santord and Burden Day, and their families for instance, made Washington DC seem rather empty--but then it hasn't happened yet. Since, I know so much more about the characters written after ...more
Plot – 3, Characters – 3, Theme – 2, Voice – 4, Setting – 3, Overall – 3

1) Plot (3 stars) – In manipulative, superficial Washington DC of the 1940s, one man strives to rise up the political system while those around him react to his wake. I wrote react because that’s really what this book is about – a bunch of reactions, not actions. It’s intriguing, and at times insightful, but there’s not a lot of action that pushes the narrative forward.

2) Characters (3 stars) – There’s Clay, the ambitious l
Perry Whitford
The first of Gore's Narratives of Empire series, seven novels that offer an alternative take on accepted American history, from the revolution to the post World War II days of the pinnacle of American pre-eminence in world affairs. Gore couldn't have known that when he wrote this book in 1967, but he did christen America as "possibly the last empire on earth" in these pages, so even if he didn't foresee the ascendance of China we can at least credit Mr. Clever Clogs with understing that his home ...more
Washington D.C. is a historical fiction that vividly depicts what goes on behind closed doors in D.C. by following several characters from the New Deal era through McCarthyism. Mixing historical figures with fictional characters (who are all either related to an influential senator or a wealthy newspaper baron), the author humanizes the inner workings of our democracy and puts us in the uncomfortable situation of recognizing the flaws in even great leaders. Vidal compels us to not only see what ...more
Having just enjoyed Vidal's tongue-in-cheek view of Washington in the 1950s with his Edgar Box mystery DEATH BEFORE BEDTIME, I remembered that I had this 1967 novel on my shelf. I've been hit-or-miss with the Vidal I've previously attempted - several failed attempts at BURR, but really enjoyed his short novel THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. So far so good with WASHINGTON DC, which I started last evening and now, some 69 pages into it, feel that I'm engaged by the novel. In the first chapter Vidal d ...more
carves into the d.c. underbelly (not wholly without sympathy ... he was tangential to the kennedys after all) through the mid-20th century. gets under the skin of the ruling class and their hangers-on, poking at their boils and inconsistencies as it goes. fantastic turns of phrase and some intriguing (a senator's connection with his dead confederate-general father) and tragically sexy (the relationship between the media mogul's daughter and the cutthroat congressman) elements.

i was infatuated w
This is the penultimate installment of Gore Vidal's generally excellent Narratives of a Golden Age, and, naturally enough, was the first to be published (in 1967; the last one was published in 2000, The Golden Age). It is also, in my view, the least interesting of the books (though I have not read Burr) and seems more gossipy and full of his trademark dialectical-ironic aphorisms than the others - it is somewhat shorter on plot, politics and characterisation than Lincoln or Hollywood, for exampl ...more
Joshua Zeitz
Of the Narratives of Empire series, this one is thus far my favorite. The fictional characters make the plotline, whereas the real historical figures, though central to the general feel of the novel, often seem over-written (their dialogue, sometimes stilted and forced). Clay Overbury is a classic political villain in the make. A terrific read for anyone who follows DC politics, enjoys mid-twentieth century history, and doesn't mind the premise of historical fiction to begin with.
Христо Блажев
Гор Видал рисува раждането на империя във "Вашингтон, окръг Колумбия"

“Започвам да пиша за тази книга с леко недоволство. Очаквах повече, много повече, особено след великолепната публицистика на "Вечна война за вечен мир", но се оказа, че литературната версия на раждането на американската империя ми се стори безинтересна и скучна.

Историята. Гор Видал проследява няколко десетилетия от американската история - от 30-те до 60-те, - в които се фокусира върху ск
Diana Skelton
"He got along well with the Texans, if only because working politicians tend to be tolerant of one another, realizing that one man's conviction is another man's heresy, which was why it was helpful not to have too many convictions. In any case, the fiercely doctrinaire were seldom elected to Congress."
"But then the old hands knew that to rise, the ambitious politician must be careful not to do anything that might in any way cause distress or alarm. So far none realized that Clay's dim record was
Back in the late 70s and early 80s I used to have time to choose an author and read their oeuvre in an intense burst of concentration. Henry James, Edith Wharton, Trollope and Vidal were a few of the novelists I read and enjoyed.
I liked this book a bit more than 'Live from Golgatha' because the characters seemed more fully formed, three dimensional- but then they were fictional, which provides more creative license. There were a few different quotes that stuck out and resonated with all the politicking that happens in this town- moments when I thought 'hmm, some things never change.' I might add that I was watching House of Cards while reading the book, so the power-hungry, Machiavellian types found in both the recent t ...more
Compelling American narrative on the savagery innate to the pursuit of power. "Plus ça change…" as the indefatigable Irene could be counted on to say.
Wandering through the bookshelves of the place I was housesitting this summer, this musty book seemed like a good pick, as I was about to move to DC and had never read anything by Gore Vidal. It's a political novel set before and during WWII. I didn't end up finishing never really grabbed me, partly because it was written from what I might call a hyper-male perspective. I don't think this was intentional, and it might have been okay if there hadn't been any important female characters, b ...more
Kevin Cole
For me, the writing in this book is more interesting than the story.
Cindy Hudson
While this is Gore Vidal's sixth chronological book on American History in his series of seven, it is the second one he wrote. It's interesting to read it in order, after Hollywood, which he wrote many years later. Reading the two books together shows the maturity Vidal gained as a writer as he continued in his career.

As with all Vidal's books on American History, Washington, D.C. is filled with biting wit and it brings well known political figures in our country's history to life. This inside l
This was ok, but nothing special. The politics were slightly more interesting than the characters. I guess this was tangentially about a fictionalized JFK?

I like Vidal's politics even though I don't 100% agree with him (he's a little obsessed with the idea that the "old Republic" pre-FDR was the best thing that ever happened to the world), but there wasn't much else of interest in the book... interesting to notice the ways that politics and DC political culture have and haven't changed over the
My primary complaints about this book are its flat characters and gossip-column-plot that fast-forwards to "the action" but feels disjointed. The events and motives seemed likely enough, but I never felt I knew the characters well enough to care.

I picked this up at the library one day when I was feeling like my knowledge of American political history was lacking. I haven't given up on Gore for his ability to tell that story, but I'll use a little more caution next time.
Erik Simon
I tended not to favor the later historical works by Vidal, but I think this book is quite special. It reads less like a historical novel than an actual novel, if that makes sense, probably because all of the characters, while based on someone, are fictional in the same way Boss Stark in ALL THE KING'S MEN is fictional (althouth the latter is a far superior book).
An entertaining and fast read which would make a good movie. The characters' social relations are well observed. The writing is funny without hitting you over the head about it.

My favorite phrase in the book is this, from page 266: "...he went into the bathroom, noticing with a certain pain the historic douche bag which had changed their lives."
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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
  • Hollywood
  • The Golden Age
Lincoln Burr Julian The City and the Pillar Myra Breckinridge

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