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Palimpsest: A Memoir

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This is a memoir of the first 40 years of Gore Vidal's life, ranging back and forth across a rich history. He spent his childhood in Washington DC, in the household of his grandfather, the blind senator from Oklahoma, T.P. Gore, and in the various domestic situations of his complicated and exasperating mother, Nina. Then come schooldays at St Albans and Exeter; the army; life as a literary wunderkind in New York, London, Rome and Paris in the '40s and '50s; sex in an age of promiscuity; and a campaign for Congress in 1960. His cast includes Tennessee Williams, the Kennedys, Eleanor Roosevelt, Truman Capote, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Christopher Isherwood, Jack Kerouac, Jane and Paul Bowles, Santayana, Anais Nin, Norman Mailer, Leonard Bernstein and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, among others. Hide synopsis

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Reviews of Palimpsest: A Memoir

Overall customer rating: 4.667
starfish13

Extremely Interesting Life

by starfish13 on Oct 20, 2011

Gore Vidal can write well. This, obviously, is the only reason to read a book. But in addition to being a fine writer, this is a man who: grew up with a blind grandfather United States senator, had close friends like Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles and Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. He has so many interesting anecdotes and stories about Hollywood and writers from that era and I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in those times (40s after the war, 50s, 60s).

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onemadpom

A glittering cast...

by onemadpom on Dec 18, 2008

Few are the prominent people of the post war period not to have been associated with Gore Vidal, and his polished, lively prose makes this memoir all the more enjoyable. A perfect companion to his first volume of collected essays ("United States"), also highly recommended.

drednm

Absolutely Superb

by drednm on Apr 3, 2007

Gore Vidal's bittersweet memoir is a mesmerizing trip through his first 40 years of his life(so ok, 39). Vidal's incredible life has seen him as a player in chic literary circles, on Broadway, in Hollywood, as a political figure in Washington, and, seemingly, anywhere anything interesting was happening between WW II and Kennedy's assassination. Vidal is funny--oh so funny--in his tales of his "jet set" (a term he hates) life, but he's also poignant in sharing his memories of many great figures. The book, written when Vidal was approaching 70, caps (although he's still writing) an incredible literary career that has included novels, short fiction, plays, screen plays, essays, and criticism, dating back to the late 1940s. What lies beneath the biting and often hilarious stories of celebrities, however, is a very serious and personal sea change, the story of how Vidal moved from being a privileged conservative to the apex of political liberalism. His scathing political commentaries have been among the best insider's views of just how the American political system works (or doesn't) in the last several decades. His story of the phony "Camelot" mystique of the Kennedy years is a bitter pill to digest, but one never doubts Vidal's veracity. Vidal balances personal family stories of his famous grandfather, his parents, his step-siblings (which included Jackie Kennedy), with his high-flying literary life and finally his failed political dream. The cast (seemingly of thousands) is a veritable who's who of post-war culture. It's hard to think of anyone Gore Vidal has not known. The man has had an incredible life. . As I write this review, I cannot think of a man I admire more. The man is a genius.

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