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(Narratives of Empire #5)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,091 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Here is Vidal at his best, continuing his bestselling series bringing America into the 1920s. Hollywood recreates the last days of Woodrow Wilson thru the turbulent Harding years when Hollywood first set out to recreate America & America set out to recreate the world.
Hardcover, 437 pages
Published January 20th 1990 by Random House (NY) (first published October 1st 1989)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  1,091 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Mar 29, 2013 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
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 image of the "hateful ...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
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
May 14, 2016 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
Oct 13, 2010 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.
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.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting history but I find his style hard to read. Is it just me?
Beth Cato
I read this for research, and while I did find some relevant material, this was not a particularly enjoyable read. First of all, very little of the book is actually in or about Hollywood; it's centered in Washington, D.C. on political shenanigans. The cover quote also says it's a novel about the 1920s, while in fact 3/4 of the book takes places in the late teens, depicting America entering the Great War and the developments around that.

This is very much a literary fiction novel with
Gore Vidal combines his two interests, the cinema and politics in this interesting and entertaining look at the period around America's entry into WWI and the subsequent failure of the League of Nations, contrasted with the rise of the film industry in Hollywood.

Peopled with a cast of thousands "Hollywood" provides an interesting take on the politics, history and mores of the time. Quite compelling.
Jul 05, 2009 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
Jill Mackin
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, fiction, hollywood
Loved the Narratives of Empire series.
Oct 05, 2009 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 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
Mar 19, 2012 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 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.
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.
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.
Rob Salkowitz
Dec 16, 2008 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.
Robin Friedman
Vidal's Hollywood As A Narrative Of Empire

The controversial public figure and prolific author Gore Vidal (1925 -- 2012) wrote seven historical novels on American history called the "Narratives of Empire Series" with the overall goal of showing how, in his view, the United States developed from a small republic to an overbearing, militaristic empire. The fifth novel in the series in terms of chronological history is "Hollywood" (1990). The novel begins in 1916 following Woodrow Wilson
Huge incoming fan of Gore Vidal. Almost dove in and ordered the entire America series (truly lusting after that Burr book), but eyed the pile of to-reads teetering in the corner and decided to space them out.

Basically this dude is a savant about American history. I am not so I cannot say how accurate his character studies are historically but I can sure say they are fascinating novelistically. The machinations! The genius politicians! The unpredictable Teddy Roosevelts of the world!
Oct 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is the fifth in the six book "Narratives of the Empire" series and aside from "Burr" this was my favorite. It takes place during the end of the Wilson and Harding administrations. In the background is the new found movie industry in Hollywood. The fictional narrator, Caroline Sanford, goes between the journalism and motion picture worlds and provides a voice to a challenging time in our political history (though aren't they all??). World War I has ended and Woodrow Wilson tries to win the p ...more
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Gore is a legend. Gore is truly a great writer. I feel like I have really tried here and yet I cannot be positive about Hollywood.
Burr was such a battle and this has been worse. He is a great writer and he lived in this world; but he simply cannot make it interesting. Sorry but this was just a dirge.
This novel is part of the narratives of Empire--Gore's gossipy and snarky biography of the United States. It blends history, humor, and fiction, using Hearst, Wilson, Elinor Glyn, and Chaplin.
Anton Prosser
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Vidal's historical RPF novels. They're fun as hell.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-books, politics
This is a smart and patient look at America during WWI, when the nascent movie industry was becoming a lie factory to rival Washington. There's a cast of thousands and some very funny set pieces.
Meirav Rath
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
It's OK. It's not Lincolen or Empire (a.k.a, brilliant) but it's not 1878 (a.k.a, tedious).
Mayne I'm just growing tired of the rummaging around inside American politics bit of this series.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is part of the narratives of Empire--Gore's gossipy and snarky biography of the United States. It blends history, humor, and fiction, using Hearst, Wilson, Elinor Glyn, and Chaplin.
Henry Sturcke
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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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 politica

Other books in the series

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