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Palimpsest: A Memoir Paperback – 1 Aug 1996
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An engrossing and beguiling read. Admirably candid, refreshingly indiscreet, intelligent and full of wit, it is also startlingly original...And unequivocal triumph. (William Boyd, DAILY TELEGRAPH BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
He does not narrate his life: he revies it. The result is something quite novel and wonderfully appealing, a critical biography of himself...Vidal's life might even be his greatest work. (INDEPENDENT)
Wonderfully entertaining. You want the high-level political gossip? You get it here... it offers all the zing of a Dry Martini without the danger of getting drunk. (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
PALIMPSEST is a tremendous read, down and dirty from start to finish. It is also a proud and serious and truthful book... (SUNDAY TIMES)
About the Author
Gore Vidal was at the centre of literary and intellectual life for half a century and wrote 'The Narratives of a Golden Age' series as well as countless bestsellers. He died on 31st July 2012.
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Top Customer Reviews
What is new are some of his stories and a more systematic treatment of the man you get so many fleeting glimpses of in his brilliant essays. Perhaps there isn't quite enough to him to make this all that worthwhile. Afterall, he has not had a great emotional life: he loved a boy when he was 18, who was killed in WWII, and he never really loved again. Instead, what he seeks is simple sex with no real involvement, and I don't think he understands what he is missing. That certainly explains the absence of love in so many of his novels, or its continual betrayal in the search for power and glory.
Nonetheless, Vidal has had a charmed career, and he built it by himself - "I worked" as he says, in contrast to his step sisters whom he says were 19C women looking for men to support them. There is less of his famed meanness and combativeness in this memoire and more of a man looking back with pride and some forgiveness. His essays are more fun, but perhaps less mature.
For someone completely new to Gore Vidal's writing I would hesitate to recommend this as the starting point. There is personal detail galore of Mr Vidal's life, views and portraits of people from every arena that he moved in, but, there are only a few details and mostly passing mention of what made him great - his own writing. The novels of that time do appear. Particular focus falls on the work that garnered the greatest attention in those years, The City and the Pillar, and there is the reminiscence of how he started his non-fiction, essayist, career. Just as quickly as they are mentioned the memories glide off into the places and the people of that time. If you have never read a word of Vidal's work before then I'd suggest starting out with Julian and United States: Essays 1952-1992 for his novel and essay writing respectively.
For a dedicated fan there is plenty to delight in. The famous personages, the well-connected names, the disagreements, feuds, passing attachments and friends move across the pages in their successes and failures. There is the wonderful timing of delivery which creates the scene - such as the instance of recounting the public humiliation that Christopher Isherwood suffered at the hands of E.M Forster at a London party. This is also one of the times where contradiction becomes apparent.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While interesting reading and insights into America's political live behind the scenes in the 30's til late 60th it reads a bit like a gossip.Published 12 months ago by Peter O'Driscoll
Acerbic wit, analytical character sketches, catty sarcasm, moving memories of love and loss, and some laugh out loud moments. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Benjamin Frankly
One of the best personal memoirs out there and a fantastically entertaining read- one thing Gore knows how to do is engage the reader with wit, humour and candour - a modern... Read morePublished on 30 Mar. 2015 by loverman
Gore Vidal's memoirs "Palimpsest" are fascinating, written in his inimitable sharp and witty style with numerous asides and revelations about the hundreds of (real-life)... Read morePublished on 6 Feb. 2015 by Kenneth Hurry