Monday, February 18, 2008

What a Gore

Just finished Gore Vidal’s memoirs “Point to Point Navigation:”. It’s disappointing. First things first, if you have already read his excellent “Palimpsest” don’t bother with this. There is a huge amount of repeated material. It has a scraping of the pot quality to it that doesn’t do justice to a writer that I generally admire. The sense of a dearth is reinforced by the large font and lots of white space. There is also a lingering elegiac quality to it that suggests it's his last attempt to set stuff down on paper. There is some alarming evidence of Vidal’s occasional blind spots. One is a fawning homage to Princess Margaret that ignores her well-documented boorishness. The other is where he describes Charles Haughey as the onlie begetter of Ireland’s new-found prosperity. Now if you’re using one sentence to encapsulate Haughey I suspect that your emphasis may be placed elsewhere. “The man who fiddled while Ireland starved” or “The unprincipled leader of an unprincipled party” or some such. The book is also full of Vidal’s shameless name dropping and endless rehashing of his family history and his various interactions with the Kennedys.

But Vidal is better than all this. He has written some very serviceable novels (“Lincoln” especially) and he has been one of the most discerning and acerbic writer on US politics over the past 30 years.