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Selected Essays

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  227 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Gore Vidal--novelist, playwright, critic, screenwriter, memoirist, indefatigable political commentator & controversialist--is America's premier man of letters. No other living writer brings more sparkling wit, vast learning, indelible personality & provocative mirth to the job of writing an essay. This long-needed volume comprises some 24 of his forays into critici ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published 2007 by Little Brown & Company
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MJ Nicholls
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, merkins
This irresistible sampler of Gore Vidal’s essays presents a lifetime spent thwarting the dunces of the world with his acid-tipped pen and monumental intelligence. This collection is of more delight to those interested in his literary leanings, as excepting an essay on Egyptian dictator Nasser, the first 338 pages concern literature and authors. His evisceration of the top ten bestseller list circa 1973 (Herman Wouk being the only name one might have heard of—and still apparently active aged 98) ...more
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Most of the essays reprinted here are excellent. The best are "The Top Ten Best-Sellers According to the Sunday New York Times as of January 7, 1973," for the New York Review of Books,* "The Holy Family," about the Kennedys, written for Esquire in 1967, and "The Second American Revolution," again for the NYRB. I also enjoyed "Rabbit's Own Burrow," an evisceration of John Updike, although delightful essays eviscerating Updike's style tend to be like seeds scattered on barren soil for me, because
Deliciously bitchy and wonderfully eclectic. Vidal's prose crackles and spits in all directions, from French Postmodernism to Bush's police state, but it is always both entertaining and incisive, and never less than a delight to read. Strongly recommended to all but right-wing nutters and Sky-god followers.
Oct 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in June, when Gore Vidal was doing press for his latest book, “The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal,” the octogenarian public intellectual talked with Deborah Solomon of the New York Times Magazine. They discussed – or rather, Solomon attempted to discuss – a wide range of topics related to the author, including his relation to former Vice President Al Gore; the death of his old nemesis William F. Buckley; and Vidal’s assessment of the best novel he’s ever written (he’s authored 23).
Here are
A well curated selection of essays, mostly on literature but also on politics, sex, porn, and the train wreck of American life. The editor has managed to cull through thousands of articles ("book chat" to Mr. Vidal) and present a selection that has arc and progress. Vidal makes reference to previous work, and if you read this book in order then you will have read the previous work mentioned. A nice feat.

The reader gets insight into the effect of the "man of letters" celebrity that made Gore Vid
Bob Miller
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vidal, you magnificent bastard!

These essays date from 1953 to 2004 and are neatly divided into Vidal’s “Reading the Writers” and “Reading the World” with significant overlap and time but skewed towards his more current obsession with the fate of the Republic. The solid unrelenting prose is here in abundance and his idiosyncratic opinions will surprise no one familiar with Vidal’s work.

The conclusions of “The Hacks of Academe” are commonplace now and shared across the political spectrum but this
Michael Ryan
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I attempted to read every essay in this book. I only managed to finish a couple of them. A lot of them were published in the New York Review of Books in the '60s and '70s. And all of their preoccupations with 'The New Novel' and all of that stuff, have, in the judgement of history, turned out to be fads. So quite dated in the literary criticism essays.

Sadly the world has also moved on, so his essays on The Vietnam War, prejudice against gays, JFK and J Edgar Hoover, again, whilst interesting in
Greg Brown
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grouped into about 2/3 literary essays and 1/3 political essays, this book attempts to survey Vidal's writing from 1952 to 2004. I was shocked by just how much fun he was as a writer, like his piece covering the top 10 bestsellers of that time, close-reading each and having fun at the various recurring tropes. In other essays he's a fabulous gossip, telling stories about the literary scene in NYC, Italy, and elsewhere.

Vidal never pulls his punches in essays, whether it's cracking wise about a bo
Shel Schipper
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gore Vidal's essays, that range from 1953-2004 are still sharp and timely. His insights on politics were acute and on target and still applicable today.
Selected Quote from the book:
" A peculiarity of American sexual mores is that men who like to think of themselves as exclusively and triumphantly heterosexual are convinced that the most masculine of all activities is not tending to the sexual needs of women but watching other men play games."

"...according to a W.H.O. report, the American male is
Thomas T.M. Wentonik
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Must read more Vidal. Reading him somehow feels like watching a boxer fight. One of the clearest thinkers I have read. He airs bad lit out like dirty laundry and beats the dirt out of it.

The essay on Calvino is probably my favourite in this collection (he gets 4 stars instead of 3 for this). I love that he loves Calvino. It seems incongruous somehow with Vidal's character. His thought at hearing Calvino's name: he's an "Italian Calvin." Goes so far as to say that Calvino writes better than God h
Erik Graff
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vidal fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This is a "best of" collection of Vidal's essays selected by his executor. They are divided into literary and political sections, and range from 1953 to 2004. Lacking a bookshelf for essays of such variety I place this under biography as much of the delight of reading Vidal is his insertion of personal experiences into his essays. A man with "connections", he has many stories to tell.

On the whole I preferred the literary section of this collection. Vidal is such an excellent writer that one can
Michael Feehly
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The essays collected here are quite entertaining and reveal his humor, at least in the first section of literary criticism. The second half of the book consists of political essays which likewise are well written, but more bitter and angry. I don't in the least agree with his politics, but the essays are still enjoyable for their style and their personality. I hope a complete volume can be published soon: for as much as I liked this essays, I think I would have gotten more out of a fuller collec ...more
Jacob Schindler
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Not enough Gore! I wish I'd skipped this one and gotten both 'United States: Essays 1952-1992' and 'The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000'.
The American Conservative
'That grandfather, the blind Sen. Thomas P. Gore (D-Okla.), was a first-rate populist foe of war and FDR. He was a peace Democrat, which is why no one has ever heard of him. Vidal’s education owed more to home than academy, as he read aloud to the senator, from whom he inherited an isolationist opposition to foreign wars, a populist suspicion of concentrated capital, a freethinker’s hatred of cant, and a patriot’s detestation of empire.'

Read the full review, "The Last Republican," on our website
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good. Vidal is at his best in this genre. Unfortunately, some of them got old, especially the ones focused at american literature. Despite the great stories about "the glorious bird" which are really lovely, sometimes we see an overeavulation of writters that were swallowed by the sands of time. On the flip side, when he writes about politics he is unbeatable. Insider, witty and very actual, we can see the political machinery working and not very differently as we have today: new characters ...more
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not gonna read the whole book cover to cover (and I've previously read most of the later contents anywho). Anywho, I've just been dipping in at random, finding an essay to read now and again. I greatly admire Vidal's skill as an essayist and as a person of integrity. Everything I've read by him has been lucid and amusing, no matter how serious or convoluted the subject. His analysis of an early-1970s best-seller list is essential reading!
I read about half of this book. The first half contains Vidal's best-known literary criticism, and the second half is comprised of eleven well-loved essays on politics and the world at large (which was the half I read). "Monotheism and its Discontents" alone (originally published in The Nation in 1992) would have secured my respect for Vidal. Worth the read.
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading one or two of these a night for a week or so and am simply astounded by the uniform excellence of the essays brought together in this volume. He's so sharp on the page and his assessments hold nothing back in attacking mediocrity wherever it is to be found. And lord is he funny about the strange effects of theory and academia on contemporary literature.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read the essays, knowing that one day I'd have to start reading his novels. Vidal is an intimidating writer; he has an opinion on everything, because he has a staggering intellect and command of the English language. He is controversial, articulate and astute; he makes no bones about his opinions, and doesn't apologize for his assertions.
Ben Richmond
As you might imagine it is sort of dated, but it's kind of interesting to see into a different era of America's past. A time when the country was still on the upswing, and when we had a rival to overcome and compare ourselves to...
Also Vidal gets away with references to Petrarch and Petronius, which makes me wonder if a gap is growing between readers of The Nation and readers from Gawker.
Oct 31, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good portion of these essays have not aged well, but the latest ones still cut. Sometimes you need a reminder of things we take for granted, like the incredible number of wars and semi-wars our nation has been involved in since the end of WWII.
Kate Savage
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was reading his description of bestsellers from years ago, by authors I had never heard of, and still just laughing and laughing.
Julianna May
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
My attention has grown shorter with the advent of constant texting and media. These essays were meaty and compact. Loved!
The Nike Nabokov
This salty bastard's essays are always a good read but I prefer "The Last Empire".
John Hood
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Keen doesn't get much keener.
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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
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“Whether he knows it or not, the middle-income American is taxed as though he were living in a socialist society.” 3 likes
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