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Point To Point Navigation: A Memoir Paperback – 1 Nov 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New edition edition (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349120226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349120225
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 788,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


The gloves are off, no punches are pulled (Nicholas Haslam, SPECTATOR)

Vidal has ever been an exquisite writer . . . The aperçus are tossed off on page after page with a casual flick of the wrist, the judgements are acute, finely observed and always memorable . . . He still rages . . . we should be jubilant that there is no (Rod Liddle, SUNDAY TIMES)

America's foremost man of letters . . . an engaging and insightful book (IRISH TIMES)

A fitting finale to a life that was always navigated by stars (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

In this sequel to PALIMPSEST, the celebrated novelist Gore Vidal ranges freely over his remarkable life with the signature wit and literary elegance that is uniquely his.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If ever your life feels a little thin or uneventful, blame Gore Vidal. He's had enough event and diversion in his time for five or six of us, and he keeps making us feel even worse by not only telling us about them in superbly written memoirs, but looking out of the cover at us all handsome and assured, both in youth and old age.

First there was Palimpsest (1995), dealing with his early life, which Martin Amis called "a tremendous read, down and dirty from start to finish. It is also a proud and serious and truthful book." Now Vidal gives us Point to Point Navigation, subtitled A Memoir 1964 - 2006.

And it is full of everything we have come to expect. Strange stories of all the great and good of the American twentieth century, from the very very famous to the known-in-certain-circles. Vidal's life has been not just more eventful than most, but lived at a more rarefied level; he was brought up among the renowned and the ruling classes, and so the line for him between the personal and the political has always been a thin one.


"During the next quarter century I re-dreamed the Republic's history, which I have always regarded as a family affair. But what was I to do with characters that were - are - not only famous but even preposterous? When my mother was asked why, after three famous marriages, she did not try for a fourth, she observed, "My first husband had three balls. My second, two. My third, one. Even I know enough not to press my luck.""

There, he is talking - initially - about his series of novels, Washington, D.C.
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Format: Hardcover
Vidal has managed to present this volume of his memoirs with a winning mix of the self-effacing and the candid whilst at the same time even managing to render his trademark immodesty in an endearing way. The outcome for the reader is not dissimilar to that experienced when allowing an elderly relative to muse on times past, an effect accentuated by Vidal's tendency to move disjointedly between the most unlikely topics brazenly ignoring any supposed need for structure or continuity.

Where he succeeds is in bringing his life to life with a splash of colour and some memorable anecdotes, and the result is an extremely likeable anthology.
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Format: Paperback
In the dedication page of Point to Point Navigation; Gore Vidal states that, as of 2006, this will be his final book of memoirs. The warm dedication to the memory of Barbara Zimmerman Epstein for her editorial eye over his long writing career has another implication for this volume too.

Point to Point Navigation is Vidal's continuation from Palimpsest and gives his memories and views from 1964 to 2006. His explanation of what point to point navigation is (from his time in the U.S Navy on a supply ship) proves apt for the style in which it is written. Without going into a tediously overwrought analogy about sailing; this does explain the zig-zagging of recollections, which is quite different from the narrative flow of the previous memoir.

If I had not read his previous book I think I would have liked reading this volume a lot more. Gore Vidal is a true writer in mind and bone, as well as being prodigiously skilled at anecdote, opinion and critical thought, so it with some sadness that I found this to be not quite up to the job.

The flaws? Repetition of two kinds. Much of what is included was fully covered in Palimpsest. Although they are abridged recollections - his father, grandfather, the politics and the leading figures of the day, fascination with films and even his first appearance on a news film when flying a plane, I consider these inclusions unnecessary. For someone who had not read his previous history then it would make a great deal of sense to include it, but, then that begs the question why this book would be considered a continuation rather than a re-write with some additional material?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A melancholy end to Vidal's long writing career. A sequel of sorts to Palimpsest it is part autoboigraphy, part memoir with some wonderful chapters on his friendships with Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles amongst others, part gossip (a very funny piece about Barbara Cartland and a touching and revealing one about Princess Margaret), part state of the nation address and a valedictory correction to the many false myths and poor biographies about him.

Most moving of all are the chapters about his 53 year relationship to his partner Howard Auster. It was so sad and revealing to read when Auster, about to go in for surgery and perhaps thinking that he might not recover from the procedure, asks Vidal to kiss him and they do. On the lips for the first time in 50 years. It says so much about the reticence of gay men of a certain age, their need for privacy, and the complexity of how to express oneself freely. Vidal describes Auster's later years with a stoicism befitting a great classicist.
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