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Hey, look, no one has ever accused Gore Vidal of being closemouthed, either in person or in print! And neither would he make such a claim
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This mammoth omnibus of 114 essays is vintage Vidal, a marvelous compendium of sharp wit and independent judgment that confirms his status as a man of letters. The prolific novelist/critic offers withering putdowns of the French ``new novel,'' billionaire Howard Hughes and bestseller lists. He displays a reporter's hard nose for facts in travel pieces on Nasser's Egypt and Mongolia. He pens definitive portraits of H. L. Mencken, Oscar Wilde, Anthony Burgess, L. Frank Baum. He reminisces on his boyhood friendship with Amelia Earhart, who, we learn, was in love with Vidal's father, Eugene, FDR's director of commercial aviation. Mingling patrician impulses and egalitarian, subversive sentiments, Vidal takes unfashionable stances, as when he urges the legalization of drugs or ending military aid to the Middle East, including Israel. His sense of the United States as hub of an overextended empire informs pieces on ``American sissy'' Theodore Roosevelt, JFK, CIA spook E. Howard Hunt and the bloated military budget. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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This hefty volume will need strong binding: it contains 114 essays and over 1300 pages of Vidal's barbed opinions, articulate insights, intellectual observations, and more ``correctionist'' opinions. These pieces represent two-thirds of the essays Vidal has published over 40 years and fall into three categories: literary, political, and personal. Why the other one-third was omitted or why these particular ones were gathered at this time is not clear. If the aim is a ``complete works,'' then why not include the other third and divide them into three physical volumes with proper editing? Such a collection would be worthwhile. Because Vidal's essays are always provocative, full of interesting facts, and have the immediacy of a conversation, this collection might be of interest to both public and academic libraries. Libraries on a tight budget can remember that the essays have appeared previously in such publications as the New York Review of Books .-- Nancy Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.