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The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,755 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Like his National Book Award—winning United States, Gore Vidal’s scintillating ninth collection, The Last Empire, affirms his reputation as our most provocative critic and observer of the modern American scene. In the essays collected here, Vidal brings his keen intellect, experience, and razor-edged wit to bear on an astonishing range of subjects. From his celebrated prof ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  1,755 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
2016 POST-ELECTION UPDATE: one can't imagine what trenchant barbs Vidal would have uttered concerning the state and level of discourse of American society right now. My personal opinion is he would have preferred permanent exile over having to reside in it.


It is fair to say that I received the bulk of my education about the - ever unfolding - drama that is the United States of America from Gore Vidal.

He was instrumental in shattering some of my misconcep
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Once upon a time a friend of mine included Gore Vidal among his list of closeted anarchists. I have held Vidal in high regard ever since, despite having read precious little from him.

The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 is simply the one volume of his two dozen plus books of essays and non-fiction which I happened to have at hand. If you have any interest in twentieth century literature and politics you will want to read one of these collections, perhaps going whole-hog with his 1300 page United St
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gore-vidal, essays
GORE VIDAL is one of those writers who always challenges, excites, and stirs up my thinking. While I do not fully endorse all of the views in "THE LAST EMPIRE: ESSAYS 1992-2000", I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. He is one of the best.

In terms of clarity of thought and analysis, Gore writes on subjects as varied as Sinclair Lewis, Mark Twain, JFK, FDR, Truman, Charles Lindbergh, John Updike (one of the funniest, most thoughtful and scathing essays in the book), "bad history", race relations, and
Ben Crouse
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Perhaps the only literary form perfect by late-twentieth-century United Statespersons is the blurb for the dust jacket. It is for us what the haiku was the medieval Japanese."

So fun to see Gore get spicy about Beltway orthodoxy, he would've loved being a hot take crafter on Weird Twitter. Presciently describes the US as having "two right wings" and also repeatedly uses phrases that could be Rage Against the Machine songs like "The United States of Amnesia."
Like Joan Didion, he casually name-dr
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe its taken my entire adult life thus far to discover Gore Vidal.

This book is a collection of essays that he's written during the last few years of the 20th century about the United States. It's broken up into 4 parts ranging from famous literary authors, to past presidents, and the imperialism of the U.S.

Gore himself comes from a privileged background, a wealthy family including the Gores (thus his first name). He ran for office, but was mainly successful with his writing. The e
Erik Graff
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
It's hard to know how to categorize this collection of reprinted essays. Some are primarily literary, others historical, others political. Since Vidal is so connected to all three domains, however, and frequently inserts himself into his essays, I've chosen biography as the most appropriate rubric.

Vidal is a great essayist, but reading one of them after another becomes wearing because of the repetition, particularly in the soon-to-be-even-more-dated political essays. There is less redundancy in
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of essays on literary, biographical, and historical subjects runs the gamut between the brilliant (his takedown of John Updike) and the pedestrian (some of his political pieces). In general, the period covered is the Clinton Presidency, though there are echoes going all the way back to Herbert Hoover and FDR.

Gore Vidal is a unique figure in our recent history: Because of his family connections, he has met with (and even befriended) many of the major figures of the Twentieth Centu
Justin Walshaw
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it
American Supreme . . . is an album by the band Suicide.
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Liberals, Politics Junkies, Literati
Gore Vidal's Prose is always enjoyable, as is his "behind the scenes" perspective on matters literary and political. Unfortunately, I withhold the fifth star because I have developed a distinctly philosophical prejudice, that assertions be backed up with publicly verifiable evidence, and that these substantiated claims be linked together into arguments for specific claims. Vidal doesn't consistently do this, but, in a book of polemical essays, he shouldn't have to. They are good reading simply a ...more
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Vidal's essay "Edmund Wilson: Nineteenth Century Man" contains what is surely the best put-down ever delivered en passant, a line which leaves me in stitches every time I think of it. Imagining it in Vidal's haughty intonation makes it even more hilarious:

Anaïs Nin, muse to Henry Miller, Olive Oyl to his Popeye, returns, hustling her jams and jellies.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Timeless political commentary. He turned me on to some depression era figures that iv'e recently checked out and read biographies. What a tremendous time to live. What a tremedous life. Vidal has passion, heart, and, perhaps most importantly, the guts to actually speak his mind.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Don't always agree with him, but can't help being fascinated by Gore Vidal. Absolutely engaging and over flowing with information ...more
Dennis Littrell
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining romp through letters, politics and the pop culture

There is no question that Vidal likes to take people apart, especially political people. He likes to introduce the obtuse and stuffy to themselves, as it were, and to laugh at the pretentious. His favorite targets are on the Right, which is good, and his second favorite targets are on the Left, which is also good. He is, strange to say, and perhaps unbeknownst to himself, as American as pizza pie and Cabernet Sauvignon, matzo balls a
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthology
The Last Empire is a collection of Gore Vidal's essays from 1992 through 2006. Vidal is a man of letters, best known for his acidic wit and his disdain for the establishment positions of American superiority and the assumption that American culture was better than that of the rest of the world. He came from an influential family, growing up in Washington, D.C. and going to the best schools. His family were in politics and business. His father was the founder of the TWA airline, and his mother wa ...more
Tyler Sprecker
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Perhaps the only literary form perfected by the late-twentieth-century United Statespersons is the blurb for the dust jacket. It is for us what the haiku was for the medieval Japanese.” So said a man for whom the same could not be said. “The Last Empire” is a collection of essays written by one of America’s greatest writers, Gore Vidal (1925-2012). The subjects broached throughout the anthology range from 20th century personalities to American history, and social and political commentary.

As go
This is a collection of essays written by Gore Vidal between 1992-2000. His subjects can be other writers(past or present), usually in the form of a book review. Included are historical figures like George Washington, FDR, Kennedy and Nixon. He also writes about contemporary events like President Clinton’s impeachment woes. His writing is in depth and thoughtful. His wit is legendary and biting at times but he isn’t vulgar about it.

What often is missed in Vidal’s writing though is his patrician
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Vidal displays a mastery of the English language in this collection of essays, but the substance of the words he spins are very much lacking in potency.

The big problem with Vidal is that he does not attempt to engage in any serious analysis of a situation - in some cases, he just goes off on a never ending, irrelevant tangent. Take his essay “The Last Empire” for a case in point. Here, Vidal makes a claim - that America was fundamentally responsible for starting the Cold War because it changed
David Haws
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: vidal
While, in his old age, Vidal’s rant could sometimes feel like self-caricatures, he remains the premiere writer (expository as well as narrative prose) of his generation. As such, he was crucial to the political development of my generation in ways that he might not always have wanted to claim. Still, it’s the strength of his voice, which I find most endearing.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Vidal is one of the few writers of the 20th Century who had the rare combination of wit, intellect and access to talk truth yet not get relegated to the margins by DC and the mainstream media. My only regrets in reading this amazing collection were that I wasn't old enough and aware enough to have read him while he lived, and that voices such as Vidal's are so few and far between. ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Vidal was a great essayist and this book - whether you agree with his views or not - goes a long way in showing why he was considered so.
emilio squillante
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love Video's fiction and this here nonfiction style. ...more
Christopher Lane
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Doesn’t get any better
Bob Peru
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
erudite as well as laugh out loud funny.
I found some of the opinion pieces interesting and others, mostly the celebrity ones, gloating and not informational.
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I underlined so much that I ended up wishing I could memorize every word of this book. It spoke to me and affirmed much that I felt. It gave me background and filled in entire puzzles. All presented with prose that is engaging and amusing. This is not a dry treatise on history but a living account. I need to reread it again soon.
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Gore Vidal can write.

This is the first thought of the uninitiated a few pages into The Last Empire. Whismical, erudite, multiple-entendre laden prose bursts from every line and page. His interests boundless, GV has been personally near many of the senatorial, presidential (“The Oval Ones”), and journalistic legends of our time. I learned much in this collection of essays from 1992-2002, and it has led to a vast ocean of other reading material.

Why did Truman drop the bomb on Japan?

What was Timoth
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Last Empire by Gore Vidal is a series of essays he wrote from 1992-2000.
I feel these essays were important to read and I gained a great deal in the process. It has made me feel the need to re-examine some of the American history I was taught growing up, especially in regards to World War II & Pearl Harbor. Because of these essays I will read further into these subjects.

Overall it was refreshing to read thoughts that struck a common chord with my own. Seems a lot of the topics written abou
Patrick McCoy
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Last Empire, weighs in at a reasonable 465 pages in a pocketbook edition. It somewhat recent in the content of its essays, so perhaps of more interest to general readers since it covers the years 1993-2000. He makes some interesting predictions, which unfortunately have come true:

(On the CIA and terrorism): "We have neither the money nor the brains to monitor every country on earth, which means, alas, that if some evil dictator in Madagascar wants to nuke or biologically degrade Washington,
Shane Quinn
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My first reading of Vidal has definitely inspired me to read more - both more short stories and some of his historic fiction, which I am very much looking forward to. After an unsure start, when the dictionary had to be kept close at hand, his writing style and choice of words soon became something I relished and enjoyed. Given that it is an edited collection of short stories, there is a little bit of repetition but the style, the writing, the passion and the verve make it easy to overlook this. ...more
Alex Van Beek
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There is no other writer who can so consistently make me laugh and force me to think simultaneously. It is astounding how prescient Gore Vidal was, such as when he details his friend Hillary Clinton's efforts to get universal health insurance in the mid-90s, and how this so incensed the Republicans (in the pockets of insurance companies as they were/are), that it wasn't enough for them to deny her her legislation, they had to destroy her personally; we're still living with this today. And when G ...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

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