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Hollywood (Narratives of Empire #5)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  999 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Hollywood marks the 5th episode in Gore Vidal's "Narratives of Empire," his celebrated series of six historical novels that form his extended biography of the USA.

It's 1917. 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 Sanford, the alluring heroin
Paperback, 448 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Vintage (first published October 1st 1989)
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Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting history but I find his style hard to read. Is it just me?
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
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
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it

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
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
India Gray
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 rated it did not like it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
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 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Robin Friedman
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
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's election
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
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  ·  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
Steven Clark
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
One would think that Hollywood: A Novel of America in the 1920s would be about Hollywood and America in the 1920s. However, the novel is really about the end of World War I, Wilson and Harding, the beginning of Prohibition, and the mighty presence of FDR looming in the background. New Years Eve leading into January 1920 comes along about 300 (of 430) pages in. The movie business feels like an afterthought. If Vidal meant it to be a metaphor, I missed it.

This is the first Gore Vidal book--fictio
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jan 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
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
Apr 29, 2009 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
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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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