Monday, May 02, 2005

If you can't say something nice....

Gore Vidal was intimately tied to the most important people in politics, literature, TV, and Hollywood for much of the second half of the 20th century. He occasionally has nice things to say (he liked his neighbor Greta Garbo, and is surprisingly sympathetic to Hilary Clinton, for example), but we don't care for that. We want dirt and mean-spirited gossip, and there's so much of it here the head spins. You want a young Jackie Bouvier Kennedy showing a bride-to-be how to "douche post-sex" in the tub? You want a conversation where Allen Ginsberg and Vidal discuss who blew whom, who fucked whom in the ass, and how Norman Mailer reacted? You want merciless deflations of overblown celebrity egos like Truman Capote, Chuck Heston, Anais Nin, Bobby Kennedy, Jack Kerouac, JFK, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forester, etc, etc? You want an observant and catty insider's view of the machinations of studio execs, corporate shills in the Senate, the Military Industrial Complex, the aviation industry, Broadway, CBS, the Gore family (the three Senators in particular, and a VP, and a distant cousin named Jimmy Carter)?

This is your book. Palimpsest jumps around like a barefoot child on hot asphalt, but no matter. Vidal's voice--his irrepressible wit and uncanny ability to find every false idol's clay feet--makes this book a treat.