Need Help Reading Vidal
October 7, 2009 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What Gore Vidal book would you recommend to start with / which of his books has been your favourite ? (Could apply to non-american readers). asking as his tone and general outview seem to match what a friend is looking for in writing. Yet he seems to have explored quite a few writinggenres, and i'd like to let Friend discover him as a gift.
Thanks for your help
posted by Jireel to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Not his fiction. Love his non-fiction writing -- some of the very best of the last year -- and I admire what he's done for liberal thought (although he's a total bitch these days in interviews0+), but the guy just wasn't gifted in novel-writing. Can't go wrong with anything else, though.
posted by Damn That Television at 11:18 AM on October 7, 2009

Ha ha, by "year" I mean "century"
posted by Damn That Television at 11:18 AM on October 7, 2009

Maybe you could split the difference and try the historical novels?
posted by cmoj at 11:24 AM on October 7, 2009

I've only read The City and the Pillar, the "gay" novel which made him infamous in 1948. It was good, as I recall. I was particularly struck by the differences and commonalities between being gay back then versus being gay in my lifetime.

Of course, it may not be the least bit representative of the rest of Vidal's fiction.

posted by General Tonic at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2009

I've read Burr and Lincoln and they are both interesting and easy to read. Either would make a good introduction. On the nonfiction side, Point to Point Navigation is a great memoir. He had a fascinating upbringing and it's a great set of stories. Actually, I didn't read the book, I listened to him read it as an audio book. That was one of the best audio books I've purchased.
posted by Sculthorpe at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2009

I agree his essays are the reason he's Gore Fucking Vidal... but you know, Empire and Myra Breckinridge are pretty good novels, too.
posted by rokusan at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2009

Pink Triangle, Yellow Star was a pretty damn good collection of essays, and it's short enough to read and decide if you like it or not.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:55 AM on October 7, 2009

I kinda hated The City And the Pillar but I love love loved Empire.
posted by The Whelk at 12:10 PM on October 7, 2009

Like Sculthorpe I've also read Burr and Lincoln, and found them enjoyable and easy to get through. They're the first two in a series of seven novels (the others are 1876, Empire, Washington D.C., Hollywood, and The Golden Age). The Modern Library once published a nicely designed hardcover set of the first six books in the series, but I believe it's now out of print--if you could track one of those volumes down in good condition, though, it'd make a nice gift.
posted by Prospero at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2009

Yeah, I thought Burr was hugely entertaining. Lincoln was very interesting but a little ponderous in comparison to Burr's bad boy attitude.
posted by johngoren at 12:13 PM on October 7, 2009

"Myra Breckinridge," if your friend likes to read about genderbending.

I also liked his short story collection "Clouds and Eclipses" but it was less gay.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:17 PM on October 7, 2009

I purchased his collection of essays titles United States when I was 16. 13 years later I still pick it up and read the odd essay.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:51 PM on October 7, 2009

I purchased his collection of essays titles United States when I was 16. 13 years later I still pick it up and read the odd essay.

Seconded. It's a great collection.
posted by otio at 1:39 PM on October 7, 2009

The history novels are fantastic.

"Not gifted at novel-writing?" I could not agree less. No one person's taste in novels is an objective standard; but the verdict of millions of readers over the course of decades is definitely that Vidal is and was a very gifted novelist. (That said, don't read the Jesus novel, because it bites.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:35 PM on October 7, 2009

1876 is one of the best historical novels I've ever read. It's atmospheric depiction of NYC during that time was enticing, absorbing and memorable. I think his historic novels are leading examples of the genre and disagree with the previous recommendation to avoid them. Vidal's fiction, IMO, is far more likely to survive his essays, which are excellent too.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 4:24 PM on October 7, 2009

The first book I read of his was Kalki [SPOILER] and I liked it very much. I have since read several of his books and the only one I found a real slog (and didn't actually end up finishing) was Burr.
posted by tellurian at 4:42 PM on October 7, 2009

Burr and Julian are his best.
posted by rfs at 8:47 PM on October 7, 2009

I love the American Chronicle series: Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and The Golden Age. Each is good, but together they are masterful. Read the whole series.
posted by hworth at 8:51 AM on October 8, 2009

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